Massachusetts Utility Will Fund Repairs to Couple’s Water-Damaged Home

By JIM HADDADIN, The MetroWest Daily News | December 21, 2018

In more than 50 years, Edward and Eleanor Rogaishio say they never saw a drop of water seep into the basement of their Massachusetts home on Harrison Place.

The property, which dates to about 1888, features a finished living space with wall-to-wall carpeting in the cellar, which is set inside a field stone foundation.

Edward, an 87-year-old retired Framingham deputy fire chief, said he and his wife fixed up the property slowly over the years, saving enough money to renovate one section at a time. When they stopped going out as much, the couple enjoyed special dinners in their cozy basement, though they used it less often in recent years.

It was sometime in early July when Eleanor, 81, spotted the first sign of trouble. She popped down to the cellar wearing a pair of socks, and felt a cold, damp sensation under her feet. The carpet was soaked from end to end, and about 1 inch of standing water covered the floor.

After five decades without any moisture problems, water was steadily infiltrating the basement. While they didn’t know it at the time, a new gas meter installed by Eversource nearly four years earlier was likely to blame for the flooding. And getting the company to take responsibility would become a protracted battle for Edward Rogaishio, whose persistence finally paid off this week.

The Rogaishios traced the leak to the north side of their house. The sheet rock on that side was saturated with water and beginning to crumble.

The couple bought a dehumidifier and slowly drew the water out of the air, emptying one full tank of liquid after another into their sink. Edward underwent heart surgery three decades ago, and has a pacemaker. He was advised by doctors not to lift anything heavy, so his wife shouldered the burden, lugging what the Rogaishios estimate was several hundred gallons of water.

Above ground, they tried to seal up the house. They laid down tarps and spread caulking along cracks. Edward also had an inkling the water problems were tied to the new gas meter, which was installed around August 2014.

Responding to a new mandate from the state, Eversource replaced the meter inside the couple’s basement with an outdoor unit. The company ran a new pipe underground to connect it to the natural gas main along the street.

After the water leak began, an Eversource worker visited the home to investigate. Rogaishio said the man reinforced the seal around the top of his meter, but failed to check another section of pipe that sticks up from the ground.

“I hate to say it, but he did not know his butt from his elbow what he was doing,” he said.

Rogaishio’s son, Chris, who works in construction, came to visit a little more than a week later and identified what he believed was the problem: The pipe running from the street wasn’t properly sealed where it emerged above ground, allowing water to seep in.

“My son Chris said that anyone who deals with pipes should know that water chases pipes,” Edward Rogaishio said,

“So that if you’ve got a pipe that leads into the ground and it’s not sealed, any time it rains it follows that pipe, and it followed the pipe into our house.”

Chris Rogaishio applied caulking along the base of the pipe and voila, the problem was fixed. But the damage to the basement was already done. A contractor estimated it would cost $3,210 to fix the cellar, where the sheet rock walls had crumbled.

The Rogaishios were adamant that Eversource should foot the bill. But the utility disagreed. The company denied their claim, writing that a three-year window had passed since the new gas meter was installed, and it was therefore too late for Rogaishio to seek compensation.

But Edward – who has dabbled in everything from painting to writing books since retiring from the fire department at age 51 – didn’t take “no” for an answer. He complained to the state Department of Public Utilities, then penned a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker to plead his case. And when that effort stalled, Rogaishio reached out to the Daily News.

That last measure appears to have spurred results. After being contacted by the newspaper Thursday, Eversource dispatched a supervisor to inspect the meter outside the Rogaishios’ home. The utility has since determined the meter was indeed the source of the water damage.

When they installed the unit, workers punctured the concrete apron around the home to put in a riser on which the meter sits. Water then leaked through the hole in the concrete, said Reid Lamberty, media relations manager for Eversource.

Lamberty said the company disputes the characterization of its initial installation work as shoddy, but takes responsibility for the damage. Eversource has reopened the Rogaishios’ claim, and the company intends to pay for any necessary repairs, Lamberty said.

“We take responsibility and we are going to do right by him,” Lamberty said.

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