Don’t worry, York Water Company will keep your water on

While some York Countians must choose between paying their mortgage or getting groceries, York Water’s CEO JT Hand doesn’t want them to fret about turning on the tap during the coronavirus outbreak.

Story paid for by: York Water Company
Written by: Rebecca Hanlon
(Photo courtesy of York Water Company)

Less than a month into his new position as CEO of The York Water Company, JT Hand laughs a little and says, “I don’t know why everyone said this job would be so hard.”

In the short time since his promotion, JT has watched the community grasp for hope and understanding in a time when thousands of people are applying for unemployment and businesses of all sizes are closing their doors. Meanwhile, utility professionals must balance going to job sites with children home from school while many of the company’s other employees are adjusting to working from home.

Conversations about the coronavirus impacting York County weren’t a thing in early March. Now, they consume everyone’s lives.

About 200,000 people in York County receive water or wastewater services from York Water. Many of them are facing uncertainty, and their priorities are focused on just getting through the day.

JT doesn’t want to add to that anxiety.

“We don’t want anyone to have to worry about what will happen when they go to turn on the tap,” JT says. “You have to take care of your family. We’ll take care of your water.”

JT Hand, York Water Company's CEO, meets with York mayor Michael Helfrich during waterline work in early March. (Photo courtesy of York Water Company)

Emergency response and support mode

For the past 204 years, York Water has been there to take care of its community. From the Civil War to the Spanish Flu pandemic, through two World Wars and the events of 9/11, the water company has persevered.

As news about the coronavirus swept through the nation and state earlier this month, York Water reviewed and updated its own action plan.

“We went into emergency response and support mode,” JT says. “We have a responsibility, that when 200,000 people wake up tomorrow morning and make their coffee, take a shower, and brush their teeth, they can access the York Water Company product. We have 9,000 customers who, when they use their restroom and flush their toilet, need to know that the waste will be collected and treated by York Water Company.”

Being certain that service continues takes preparation and planning over the course of decades.

JT and his team contacted suppliers to ensure they have the resources and workforce to get York Water the chemicals needed to treat and keep the water safe for consumption. They’ve checked the stock of pipes and fittings for necessary repairs. They’ve also worked with municipalities so that waterline work can be completed as a life-sustaining necessity under Gov. Tom Wolf’s new regulations.

(Graphic from York Water Company)

Keeping the taps running

York Water also started addressing the concerns they heard from customers. If someone is facing unemployment and suddenly must decide between paying their rent, utilities, or groceries, they don’t have to worry about their water, JT says.

“If someone cannot pay their water bill, we won’t turn the water off,” he says. “That customer will still be responsible for their water consumption, but we’ll work with them on payments, and they can delay that payment until they’re in a position to start paying on it.”

If you can pay your bill, you should. That payment helps York Water afford its staff, covers the cost for necessary chemicals, and keeps the water on for those neighbors who might not be able to pay for it themselves.

We want people to know their water is safe, and they aren’t facing exposure to illness by turning on the tap. The coronavirus doesn’t spread that way.

JT Hand CEO of York Water Company

And while some York Countians are rushing to the grocery store to buy bottled water, the same $3 they’d spend on a 12 pack of bottled water could get them 300 gallons of tap water at home.

“That’s $3 you can spend on an extra box or two of spaghetti to stock your pantry,” JT says. “We want people to know their water is safe, and they aren’t facing exposure to illness by turning on the tap. The coronavirus doesn’t spread that way.”

Community strain and perspective

As the team at York Water continues to monitor federal and state news, JT is mindful of the strain his community partners, customers, and employees are facing.

When he reached out to York’s Mayor Michael Helfrich to see how he was holding up, he asked the mayor if he remembered where they had been just a couple of weeks prior.

“We were standing on the corner of George and Philadelphia streets discussing a 3-minute traffic delay caused by waterline work,” JT says. “Oh, how we wish we could go back to a time when that was our biggest worry in York.”

(Photo courtesy of York Water Company)

More info

The York Water Company has the following suggestions:

• Sign up for paperless billing and autopay to decrease the exposure and spread of the virus.

• and fill out the emergency contact form so you can be updated via email and text message of any water issues that may impact you.

• While the office at 130 W. Market St. is closed, customer service representatives are available to answer any questions. Call 717-845-3601.

• Customers who often pay their bills by cash or money order are also asked to call so York Water can accommodate them and create other arrangements for payment.

• Beware of scammers during this time. York Water employees are not entering customer homes unless of an emergency, and those emergencies would only be known to York Water employees because of a complaint filed by the customer.

• A York Water employee will never come to your door and say they need to come inside and test the water. If anyone comes to the door and claims to be from the water company, that customer can call customer service and ask if a utility professional was scheduled to come to their home. Customer service should be able to give the name of the employee and the number on the York Water vehicle parked outside.

Story paid for by York Water Company
130 E. Market St. York, PA 17401

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