Water Main Emergency Work Can Mean DEP Shutdown Fees For Homeowners

DEP Notices, Opinion & Expertise
May 15, 2013

by David Balkan

Three Day Notice

Water main emergency work on service lines in New York City can result in unexpected charges from the NYC DEP. While it is not typical there are times when the DEP must act in response to a water service line leak and the owner of the property will receive a charge in their water bill for the work performed. There are really only two instances when these charges may come into play but homeowners with a water main emergency should be aware of the potential charges.

Shutdown fee due to a defective tap connection

main water line
Leaking tap connection

In rare instances the tap connection or wet connection for a water service line will become defective and leak. Unless it is less than a year old the property owner is responsible for the connection on the city main as well as their water service line itself. Since the tap connection is how the service line is closed, the only way to repair the tap is by closing the city water main itself.

If a water main emergency exists on their main or a water service line the city may close the water main immediately without any notification to neighboring properties that will be affected. In most cases the plumber on site or the DEP itself will post notices and give 24 hours advance notice to the affected properties. Every case is different and it always depends on the neighborhood and the type of properties affected.

The issues that affect the bill for the shutdown are the number of main line gates needed in order to shut the water for that section of the city main, and the time of day the shutdown must be performed. Naturally if work is in a critical area it may have to be performed at night or on a weekend. A normal range for a NYC DEP shutdown of a section of their city main is from $500.00 to $1,500.00. That fee does not include the repair work on the water line for the property in question.

Shutdown due to water main emergency condition

water line leak
Emergency water main break

Most DEP shutdowns that involve service lines occur due to an emergency condition created by a water leak or a property owner not responding to a DEP Three Day Notice. Unlike when the city main has to be shut a tap connection shutdown involves excavation work. A tap is usually about 4′ below the ground and under the roadway. Shutting a tap can be pretty time intensive depending on the severity of the water leak and the work location. Naturally a slight leak in a residential area of Queens is far different than a severe leak in midtown Manhattan.

In these poor economic times many more property owners than normal are finding it difficult to respond to a NYC DEP Three Day Notice to repair their water service line than ever before. In most cases the DEP will grant extensions on notices for a variety of reasons, but contacting them via the number on the notice or the 311 system is vitally important. Once a tap is shut by the NYC DEP the shutdown fee is irrevocable.

Does DEP charge for a Water Main Emergency shutdown?

Here is where things get a little complicated. Slight changes in the situation or scope of work can have great ramifications on the charge fore the water be shut.

  • If the DEP excavates to verify the source of a leak and determines a service line is leaking there is only a charge if the tap is closed. If the tap is closed by the DEP there is a uniform charge of $1,000.00. The property owner will see this charge on their water bill.
  • If DEP has to close a section of the city main in order to expose the defective service line and to close the tap the charge remains $1,000.00 and will appear on the water bill.
  • If the DEP excavates and leaves the defective service on there is no shutdown fee. This may happen if there is uncertainty as to whose leak it is and if the leak that is found is slight. In some cases the owners plumber can take over the hole and the DEP will leave the tap connection on.
  • When the city main must be shut (as described earlier) the fee depends on whether it occurs before or after a plumber is hired to perform the water line repairs. If the City does the shutdown before a plumber is on site in order to stop the leak the typical $1,000.00 shutdown fee will apply. If the City does the shutdown due to the tap being defective or due to the severity of the leak the City will bill the plumber who is on site directly. If the City (the NYC DEP) bills the plumber the owner of the property would then have to reimburse the plumber for this expense.

It is unusual for the city main having to be closed but situations do arise. In these cases it is not unusual for their to be a great delay in the plumber receiving the bill. If leaks are not responded to promptly the chance of a shutdown occurring are much more likely as well as roadway washouts. Needlessly delaying a water line repair or water line replacement can never save a property owner money – it can only add to the cost.

Learn more about DEP Three Day and Ten Day Notices

NYC DEP notification
Example of DEP Ten Day Notice

A NYC DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) three day notice is generally a notice to repair a defective (leaking) water main service.  Depending on the severity of the leak, the department may act at their discretion to extend the period of the notice.  If an emergency condition is being created, the DEP will take swift and decisive action.

A Ten Day Notice is generally issued after a water main service has been shut off due to a failure to respond to a previous notice or water main emergency condition. A Ten day notice will result in a $1,000.00 charge appearing on a future water bill. This charge is for the work the DEP performed to excavate in the roadway and close the tap connection. The actual cost the department incurs when they perform a shutdown includes administrative and supervisory costs – inevitably it is much greater than the $1,000.00 fee assessed to the property owner. [Read more about DEP notifications]

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

Dave Balkan

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