Top Plumbing Program Helps Local Homeowners

If you’ve experienced a plumbing backup, you know it can be a alarming ordeal: water suddenly gushing from a floor drain, lavatory, or other basement plumbing.

Contrary to the many other reasons of basement flooding, backups are the outcome of heavy rain causing local sewers to become so overwhelmed that water has nowhere to go but through your home’s basement or ground-level plumbing.

The good news: California residents may be considered for the California Water Department Basement Protection Program (BPP), which provides free installation of plumbing devices called backwater valves that can reduce backups. Some residential properties may additionally get downspout changes at no expense.

Here’s what to do if you believe you have a backup problem:

Document flooding: If you’re reading this due to the fact you think you just practiced a basement backup, call a plumbing system hotline right away while you still have water in your basement.

We will dispatch an inspector out to take a sample of the liquid to determine if it’s coming from the City’s sewer.

Having water sampled is not necessary to apply for help, but calling to report flooding helps us document the issue and determine if the incident is connected to a storm.

If potential, safely use your cellphone to capture video or pictures while the flooding is taking place. Share these with the inspector assigned by our contact center.

Apply for help: Complete the Basement Protection Program application form. You can mail the form to the address provided.

Renters: If you rent and think you experienced a basement backup, call our hotline to report the issue and alert the property owner that you’ve requested a Water Department inspection.

Backflow products are essentially one-way doors installed in the pipe connecting homes to sewers, usually under a pavement, and just allow wastewater to flow out into the sewer system.

Let There Be Light (Emitting Diodes): Philly to Retrofit All 100,000 City Streetlights

The city of Philadelphia has a great many plans to reduce its municipal energy consumption in the name of staving off climate change. These include ambitious but obvious initiatives like buying more renewable energy and driving more electric cars. But it turns out, when it comes to how much the city pays on its own energy bill, the single greatest offender is something both ubiquitous and taken for granted: streetlights.

Our approximately 100,000 sodium-powered bulbs expense $15 million to light each year. Which is why, after experimentation with some pilot programs starting in 2011 that changed 5,000 sodium bulbs with more energy-efficient LEDs, the city has promised to scale up the whole effort and replace all of its 100,000 streetlights, along with another 18,000 alley lights.

Philly’s been a bit sluggish on the uptake here — many other places, like New York City and Chicago, have already retrofitted their lights. But for once, our calculated pace may actually be an advantage. That’s due to the fact many of the early LED installations from the early 2010s had just one setting — hyper bright — and were promptly were met with public outcry as residents complained about blocks now suddenly lit like hospital operating rooms. Technology has since improved to the point that there are dimmer LEDs available.

Despite those improvements, some concerns over LEDs have remained — in large part thanks to a 2016 report from the American Medical Association that suggested certain LEDs, with their blue-light wavelengths, could hurt people’s eyes. Sodium-powered lights, on the other hand, typically fall in the more eye-friendly yellow-light spectrum.

The AMA’s report also recommended, quite ominously, “a long-term increase in the risk for cancer, diabetes, [and] cardiovascular disease” that could be triggered by bright lights disrupting people’s circadian rhythm. But it seems even the AMA thought that was a bit over-dramatic, due to the fact in the end, the doctors still endorsed LED retrofitting, so long as cities use less powerful lights. (The AMA recommended lights no more powerful than 3000K, a unit of “color temperature” for which higher figures signify more blue wavelengths. Although most of Philly’s existing LEDs are at the 4000K level, the city is also testing 3500K, 3000K, and 2700K models.)

New in Glaucoma Surgery Provides Hope

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FHA Loans Info for 2020

In a serious step three years in the making, the Federal Housing Administration announced Monday that it soon will back some mortgages on individual condominium units in condominium complexes that are not approved by the agency.

In the past, customers generally could not get an FHA-backed loan on a condominium unit unless the whole complex had FHA approval, but just 6.5% of the approximately 150,000 condominium complexes in the country had that approval. In San Francisco, just 17 complexes have been approved.

The new approval process is part of a rule mix that will take effect Oct. 15. The objective is to increase homeownership among low-income, minority and first-time customers, and seniors looking for to downsize. Often, these customers see condos as an affordable option, but don’t have the down payment, credit score or other qualifications needed to get a conventional loan backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. They could qualify for an FHA loan, but can’t get one on a condominium because the project is not FHA-approved.

Under the new rules, they may be able to. For projects that are lacking FHA approval, the agency will insure up to 10% of individual units in projects with 10 or more units, and up to two units in projects with fewer than 10 units.

There still will be a restricted review of the project to make sure it has adequate reserves and meets owner-occupancy and other requirements.

Generally, the project would need at least 10% of the complex’s total monthly unit assessments in reserves, and would need at least 50% of the units occupied by owners. Those are the same requirements FHA imposes on entire complexes today.

The new rule, however, also makes changes to FHA’s approval process for entire complexes to make it more streamlined and flexible. For example, under the new rule, FHA could adjust its owner-occupancy requirement to anywhere between 30% and 75%.