Pipecaster Issue 08 Vol. 33

Cover-Up Plumber’s License Revoked

The Buildings Special Investigation Unit (BSIU) is the regulatory entity that monitors licensed trades-people including licensed master plumbers (LMP). BSIU’s investigations are instrumental to ensure that licensed plumbers are performing up to their obligations under the rules and regulations of the Administrative Section of the BUilding Code.

According to Section 28-408.1: “It shall be unlawful for any person: 1. To perform plumbing work unless such person is licensed master plumber or working under the direct and continuing supervision of a licensed master plumber [LMP]…” When a LMP is issued a plumbing permit and does not either perform the work him/herself or have a person in their employment perform the work, that LMP is known as a “Cover-up” plumber.

The New York Post article entitled “Time to Pay the ‘Pipe’r” by David Seifman (11/9/11) states that LMP Elaine Ward had her licensed revoked by BSIU because she acted as a “Cover-up” plumber. The entire article is listed below:

A visit to the ‘The People’s Court” helped flush a top city plumber’s career down the toilet.

Elaine Ward — who was one of only three women in New York City with a master plumber’s license — got in deep doo-doo after she appeared on the long-running legal reality show in 2009 and it was revealed she committed a violation of industry regulations.

Ward was trying to hammer out a dispute with the owner of a Brooklyn storefront being turned into a day-care center when it emerged that she knew the work was being done by an unqualified individual — a major no-no under city code.

When the episode aired, one of the viewers was a nosy official from an industry watchdog, the Plumbing Foundation.

A complaint was then fired off to the Buildings Department, landing Ward in very hot water.

She was stripped of her license in September, in a decision that was posted this week.

A trailblazer in the male-dominated plumbing world, Ward came to regret her decision to take to the public airwaves, describing her TV experience in official city documents as “a disaster” and “a total embarrassment.”

“She’s accused of stuffing the pipes,” the show’s announcer intoned in introducing Ward’s segment, which aired on Oct. 2, 2009.

In the end, the property owner was awarded $1,500 of the $5,000 he demanded to cover the hiring of a second master plumber to replace Ward.

“She rationalized that she appeared on the show because she was concerned about the time that could have elapsed had the matter proceeded through Civil Court,” Administrative Law Judge Ingrid Addison would report nearly two years.

“She also suggested that Civil Court judges are biased against contractors . . . Moreover, the show bore the financial burden if the ruling was adverse to her.”

As it turned out, a copy of ”The People’s Court” episode that ignited the complaint wasn’t allowed into evidence because, Addison said, no one from the industry group appeared to attest that the tape hadn’t been altered or edited.

The owner in the case also refused to cooperate.

But relying on Ward’s own statements, the judge ordered that her license be revoked for allowing someone unknown to her to putter with the pipes.

“The person whom the owner retained to perform the actual plumbing work was not even remotely connected to respondent [Ward] or her business and, in fact, respondent revealed to investigators that she harbored reservations about his qualifications. Yet she forged ahead and filed for the permit,” Addison said in a decision issued Sept. 1.

Once a master plumber receives a permit from the city he — or she — is responsible for insuring that the job is completed by licensed plumbers whom they employ and supervise.

Ward could not be reached yesterday.

DEP Update on Grease Interceptors

Requirements for the Proper Sizing of Grease Interceptors

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued a reminder that grease interceptors must comply with Title 15, Rules of the City of New York (RCNY), section 19-11, including Tables I and/or II (DEP’s “Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Non-Residential Direct and Indirect Dischargers of Grease to the Public Sewer System” – see http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/rii/bmp-discharge-grease-public-sewer.pdf).

DEP’s grease interceptor sizing criteria go beyond present NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) requirements. Moreover, DEP’s grease regulations are in the process of being incorporated into the NYC Plumbing Code. Failure to install properly sized grease interceptors can result in violations and fines when DEP inspectors check businesses’ grease interceptors.

DOB Sustainable LMP Contractors

Confirming Sustainable Contractor’s Registration

Use the Skilled Trades Licensees/General Contractor/Registrant Search tool at the nyc.gov/buildings to verify if a contractor is certified in sustainable practices. Enter the license number, last name or business name, and select the license type. Sustainable Contractors will have a green leaf icon on their page. Contractors’ credentials are listed on the bottom of the screen.

Q- Who Hires Special Inspectors?
A- Owners

Below are excerpts from DOB Bulletin 24 of 2011, regarding “Hiring of Special Inspection Agencies”. In short, the hiring of a Special Inspection is the responsibility of the owner not the Licensed Plumber or Fire Suppression Contractor. For a copy of the entire Bulletin please see the link below:


Buildings Bulletin

Issuer: James P. Colgate, RA, Esq.
Assistant Commissioner for Technical Affairs and Code Development
Issuance Date: November 30, 2011
Purpose: This document restates the requirements that the owner hires the special inspection agencies, and the obligation of the special inspection agency to avoid conflicts of interest.

Hiring of Special Inspection Agencies (SIAs)

Section BC 1704.1 requires that SIAs be retained by the owner of the premises and section BC 1704.1.2 requires that SIAs report to the owner uncorrected discrepancies between approved construction documents and the work performed. Therefore, an entity that is solely the contractor and not an owner cannot retain an SIA, and it is the owner at a minimum that must receive reports from an SIA in accordance with these provisions.

Therefore, if an arrangement whereby an SIA is retained by a contractor who is not also an owner, it is a violation of 1 RCNY 101-06(b)(2) as it would present a conflict of interest for the SIA who must objectively observe the progress of work and report information about the work to the owner. In such cases the SIA and contractor would be subject to enforcement action by the Department.

Foundation’s Environmental Statement

Since its establishment in 1986 the Plumbing Foundation has worked diligently to ensure that the plumbing industry has as little a “carbon footprint” on New York City as possible. The plumbing industry has historically utilized environmentally friendly materials like recycled cast-iron and copper piping/fittings. The Foundation will continue its role of protecting New York City as well as being an advocate for the environment by strengthening its water/sanitary regulations thereby lessening the City’s wasteful water consumption.