Hundreds of Hilton Head property owners likely will pay cost of waterline breaks

This was the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in the Avalon community on Hilton Head Island.
This was the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in the Avalon community on Hilton Head Island.

More than 1,000 property owners on Hilton Head Island are estimated to have waterline breaks, a cost they likely will be footing.

Water and sewer providers on the island say waterlines running from meters to houses or businesses are the property owners’ responsibility.

“It is your line,” Pete Nardi, Hilton Head Public Service District’s general manager, said Friday. “You need to call a plumber to have the break fixed.”

Russ Dubisky, executive director of the South Carolina Insurance Association, said piping outside a home typically is not covered by homeowners’ insurance.

“You can sometimes purchase a separate insurance for piping underground, but it is offered through your water and sewer provider,” Dubisky said.

It’s also uncertain if that insurance, even if available, would cover an act-of-God situation such as Hurricane Matthew, he said.

None of the water and sewer providers on Hilton Head partners with insurance companies to provide the coverage, service district managers told The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette.

“A key reason we haven’t done one of those protection-plan partnerships thus far is because we’ve found many wouldn’t have applied to customers in the event of a hurricane,” Nardi said.

The Hilton Head Public Service District has “hundreds” of customers with waterline damage on their private property, Nardi said, though he couldn’t provide specific figures Friday afternoon.

Kelley Ferda, South Island Public Service District’s general manager, estimates more than 800 private properties as of Friday had waterline breaks.

Ferda said her service district had concerns about partnering with insurance providers.

“The companies with whom I have met would not provide us a list of their local plumbers,” she said.

Often, water utility companies receive incentives for offering insurance, Ferda said. The South Island district didn’t want to force residents to receive insurance only through a company they partnered with, she said.

The Broad Creek Public Service District had about 50 property owners with waterline breaks as of Friday afternoon, said Mike Allen, the district’s general manager. The district does not provide insurance to cover waterlines, he said.

Customers also could have sewer line breaks on their property, but it is unlikely, Nardi said, explaining that those lines usually are deeper.

Waterlines are typically pulled up by the roots of trees that fall during storms, Nardi said. He said the roots usually do not reach deep enough nor are they strong enough to pull up sewer lines.