Question? Problem? Need Help? Dial 3-1-1

Learn how SWEEP keeps Philadelphia clean through education and enforcement.
Learn about the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee (PMBC), and what they are doing to keep our streets clean and safe.

Developer Plumber Ditch Restoration

In 2016, the Streets Department implemented new regulations allowing developers who are required to repave the street adjacent to their work to have the option to restore their utility ditches at their own cost, rather than pay the cost for the Streets Department to restore the ditches as part of the plumber permit cost.  The Regulations Governing Street Openings, Excavations and Restoration, effective September 8, 2016, under section 14, require developers to mill and resurface streets where 40% or more of the adjacent roadway is disturbed or three or more utility connections per lot/property are involved in the development, and, there is work on six or more lots/properties or at least 100 linear feet or work adjacent to a historic street. 

Regulations Governing Street Openings, Excavations and Restoration

The standard method for restoring plumber ditches is that the plumber obtains a permit from the Water Department to open the street and pays the permit fee to cover the cost of the Streets Department to permanently restore the ditch.  The plumber is responsible for backfilling the ditch, applying a temporary topping, and keeping the ditch in a safe condition for 30 days after electronically filing a backfill notice with the Streets Department.  After those 30 days, the Streets Department is responsible for keeping the ditch safe until the Department permanently restores the ditch.

Under the Regulations Governing Fees and Charges for Various Permitted Activities, as amended effective January 1, 2016, developers now have a second option, per section 2. B.

Regulations Governing Fees and Charges for Various Permitted Activities

Under this second option, the developer may choose to pay for the plumber or contractor to permanently restore the plumber ditches, instead of the Streets Department.  When the developer contacts the Streets Department for plan review, where it is determined that a private paving agreement for the milling and resurfacing of the street is necessary, the developer will be asked which option he wants to use.  If the developer chooses to pay for the permanent restoration, the Streets Department will send a confirming letter.  A sample of that letter is here:

Example of Developer Plumber Ditch Restoration Letter

The process and responsibilities of the developer, contractor, and/or plumber under this option are as follows:

  1. The developer must direct the plumber to go to the Highways Division, Room 930, Municipal Services Building, 1401 JFK Blvd. to get a plumber fee waiver letter prior to obtaining the street opening permits.  The plumber should call 215-686-5682 in advance to inform the Highways Division so that the letter can be prepared.
  2. The plumber will present the letter to the personnel at the Water Desk when buying the permit.  The plumber will purchase a plumber inspection permit for the street openings at a much reduced cost, rather than pay for the permit where the Streets Department restores the ditches.  The addresses for these permits will be specified in the fee waiver letter, in accordance with the plans the developer submitted to the Streets Department Right-of-Way unit, and inspection permits may only be purchased for those addresses.
  3. This permit is good for 30 days, just like the regular plumber permit.  If the plumber does not dig the ditches within the 30 days, new permits must be obtained.  Permits may be cancelled within the 30 days for a refund if no ditches are dug.  Once the 30 days are past, no refund will be issued.  Since the developer is restoring these ditches, there is no extra charge for oversize ditches.  The plumber should indicate at the time of obtaining the permit what size the ditches are anticipated to be.
  4. The plumber is responsible for backfilling the ditch once the work is complete, in accordance with Streets Department standards, the same as applies to any excavation work in the street.  The plumber does not have to file a backfill notice with the Streets Department because Streets is not maintaining or restoring the ditch.
  5. The developer and plumber are responsible to maintain the ditches in a safe condition until final restoration.  If a ditch is found in an unsafe condition and the Streets Department must make the ditch safe, the developer and plumber will be billed for the Department’s time and material costs.
  6. When the plumber or contractor is ready to pour the concrete in the ditch, an appointment must be made with the Highway District office at least two working days in advance for an inspector to be on site prior to the concrete pour.  The phone numbers are listed in the developer letter.  The Highway inspector will examine the backfill prior to the pour and watch the concrete pour to make sure that the appropriate standards are met.  If there is any deficiency, the inspector will direct the contractor or plumber to take appropriate remedial action.
  7. After the ditches are permanently restored, the Highways District office must again be contacted so that an inspector may return to the site and examine the final restoration.  If there are any deficiencies found at this time, the inspector will direct appropriate remedial actions to be taken