In the middle of a heat wave, all the streets in the Avenel section of are as dry as parched bones in the sun, all except part of one block of Commercial Avenue. That is where water bubbles up near the curb, coursing down the street and into a storm sewer.
Neighbors say that the water has been running endlessly down the street for weeks, while the owner of the house swears it's a recent occurence.
Two things are for sure: the birds were enjoying the impromptu birdbath, and no one can say for sure where the water is coming from, or whose responsibility it is to get it fixed.
"We have to figure out where it's coming from," said Bernadette Sohler, spokesman for which services Woodbridge. "If it's on the customer's property, they have to repair it.
"We have it on the list to repair. It's not as easy as turning off a switch."
The water company has been digging up streets near Woodbridge High School, seeking to replace almost century-old water mains that have had a tendency to break. A disruption earlier this year caused a water main shut off, and turned off water to the high school, leading to a sudden holiday for school kids while repairs were underway.
It was about time then for the 16 inch mains to be replaced, Sohler said. While that's been going, the never-ending water problem on Commercial Avenue has been a relatively minor, backburner problem.
Whose problem it is, though, and who will be stuck paying for the repairs and the endlessly flowing water is another issue, Sohler said.
It was also a good opportunity for pointing out that homeowners should be aware that the pipes between their home and the curb are their responsibility, she said.
"Many customers aren't aware that they are responsible for the exterior water line that runs underground from the street to their home. That’s from the water company’s connection in the street, to the first inside shut-off valve," Sohler said. "Any required repairs on these lines are typically not covered by homeowners’ insurance or by the local water utility and are the homeowners' responsibility."
Middlesex Water Company has always offered line care policies, a type of insurance that covers line breaks that fall under the homeower's domain. One policy covers water main repairs, and the other, sewer pipe issues.
" Few people have enough cash on hand to handle a $1,000 or $2,000 emergency water line repair," Sohler said. "Offering the program offered a solution to this customer situation."
Last year, the water company entered into an agreement with HomeServe USA to offer the water and sewer line insurance. The cost for a typical homeowner for water care is $5.99 a month, Sohler said, and $9.99 monthly for sewer line care. Middlesex Water Company routinely sends out notices, explaining the service and the cost, and telling water consumers what their responsibilities are in the case of water problems.
The Commercial Avenue homeowner with the gushing water problem said he was having someone come out to inspect the problem "immediately." He also said he had the water line coverage himself, so he doesn't envision he'll be stuck with a huge repair bill.
People always wonder if it's worth the cost, Sohler said. She remembers a Metuchen woman who wanted to know if she should get the coverage. She told the woman about a resident, not far from her home, who said he saved $7,000 in repair bills when one of the water lines between the curb and his home gave out.
The woman, she said, thought it was a good investment.
"We can't tell people what to do, and they don't have to buy the line care service. But we like to give them the option," Sohler said. "After there's a problem, many people are glad they purchased it."
For more information on line care service, visit HomeServe USA online, or call Middlesex Water Company at 732-634-1500.