The repair or replacement of a broken water main or sewer occurs more often than one would expect. Most property owners assume that their broken water line is one of a select few that may occur in a given month and fail to understand that NYC property owners experience these issues hundreds of times each week.
Most property owners begin to panic as they must first become aware of the broken sewer or broken water line after receiving a Cease & Desist Violation or 3 Day Notice Violation from the NYC DEP.
While in a panic homeowners either call the first person off the web or take a referral for a “plumber” from a neighbor. You probably questions why this is an issue?
The Sub Contractor
Repairing a water line or sewer below ground is a specialty that should only be performed by a NYC Licensed and Bonded plumber. The problem occurs when the property owner, or the “plumber” feel that they can handle the job, or can subcontract the work and make a few dollars.
When a sub-contractor or no licensed plumber attempts to work below ground, they will find conditions that they are not used to working under. The most common issues they may encounter is the depth of a broken sewer or water line. In most cases the exact depth of these utilities is unknown until you begin digging. Most of the inexperienced plumbers are not equipped to excavate with a backhoe and may have to stop working mid-job as the conditions are too much for them to handle.
The second factor would be safety, it is also common that they are no prepared to properly shore up the hole for safety and to work under OSHA standards. This puts the workers and the homeowner at risk of being injured, or a potential law suit against the property owner.
It is also common for a Licensed and Bonded Plumber to encounter other underground utilities when digging. If you are not experienced working under these conditions you may damage a nearby gas or electric line, ultimately creating a larger issue than you had in the first place.
It is important to have all equipment that may be needed at your fingertips. When working below ground level it is common to experience the unexpected on a daily basis and in many cases time is of the essence.
Recently in Brooklyn we were digging on the sidewalk for a standard lead to copper upgrade. Typically these types of jobs are pretty straight forward as there are no “emergency” factors until we encountered the unexpected. It turns out that the old lead water main was leaking under the sidewalk and we encountered a lot of water which was actually traveling back into the street. Luckily for this homeowner, Harris is prepared for all scenarios and had one of the service trucks deliver a water pump to the site within 30 minutes. The crew continued to work and had the pipe installed with no additional hiccups.
Recently in Queens we received a call from a homeowner who had a leak surfacing on their sidewalk. They hired the “neighborhood plumber” who issued a price to the homeowner over the phone. The homeowner thought it was odd but the plumber said “he knows the area well”. To his surprise, the house was built up on three separate levels and he could not figure out how to install the new water line going in an upward direction. Harris was called to the house on the very next day and completed the job the same day.
There was no real additional challenge to installing the pipe in this situation, the plumber must know where to excavate the holes and how to make the tunnels before the new pipe is installed.
Recently in Manhattan another utility contractor was working in the street and encountered a very old and bridle water main line. It turns out that one of their crew workers nipped it with his shovel and because it was so old, the pipe started leaking and flooding the hole. Harris was called on site due to the emergency, began pumping the water and quickly plugged the old water main with a piece of wood.
This straight forward and simple procedure has assisted our team in fighting many water mains over the years however, the layman would not be aware of what to do in a similar situation.