Proper Water Main Plug Installation When A Lead Joint Exists On Your Fire Service Line

Jobsite Reports, New Sewer & Water Mains, Sewer & Water Disconnections
July 26, 2019

by David Balkan


When a water service exists that is no longer required, it must be permanently disconnected at the point of the connection to the public main. In most of these cases the plug is required due to the building being demolished, in these cases both the house sewer water line are disconnected. In some cases it is because the water service line is excess to the buildings present needs. To do a water main plug on service lines a process must be followed to be in compliance with local  code requirements, and to successfully accomplish the task. In some cases, particularly on larger and older service lines, the actual connection and piping may be held together by caulked lead joints. In these cases a special skill set is required. Because caulked lead joints have not been used in many decades, burning them out and re-caulking them is a lost art.

Caulking a lead joint on a water service line connection

The Process to Water Main Plug on Service Lines

The typical 6 step process to plug either a house sewer or water service line is fairly routine in NYC. It is as follows:

  1. A notarized Permission Letter must be obtained from the property owner to verify that the Plumber does indeed have permission to permanently disconnect the service(s) in question.
  2. Permit applications must be submitted to the DEP, approved, and printed.
  3. In most cases the DOT must also issue a permit.
  4. The service(s) in question must be exposed and plugged at the appropriate point. For a sewer sewer that point is typically at the curb line. For a water service line, that point is at the connection to the public water main.
  5. A DEP Field Inspector must witness the plug and sign off on the work.
  6. A formal sign-off is sent via email to the Licensed Master Plumber.

As a matter of course the affected excavated areas are backfilled, compacted, and restored in a seamless fashion.

The 7 Step Process to Plug Lead Joint Wet Connections

Unlike the relatively simple task of plugging a tap connection, a wet connection requires more extensive work. Because it is a much larger connection, the excavation itself must likewise be made larger. As stated previously, if the wet connection is lead joint, it requires special care and skill. Besides the 7 steps listed below, special attention be made to ensure the integrity of the valve itself. If nuts or bolts are rotten, the valve itself can blow apart. Additionally, the valve must be closed with great care to ensure the valve stem does not break. Components on an old valve can be brittle and worn. That is why when a water main plug job is needed, it can be more complicated than one may think.

A section of an old lead joint wet connection valve

1. Exposing the connection itself

The 1st important step to do a water main plug on a wet connection is to make a proper excavation. Typically that means making an excavation 5′ wide by 6′ long by 5′ deep. The wet connection has to carefully exposed to ensure all components are in proper condition. An old lead joint connection can have rotten bolts, nuts of components. Any of these parts are capable of breaking off, causing the connection itself to blow apart and flood the excavation. Is this were to happen the DEP would have to shut down a section of the public water main itself.

2. Closing the wet connection

Old wet connections can have an accumulation of rust, dirt, or grit inside the valve body itself. These items can prevent the valve form fully closing. That is why it is vital to know the number of turns required to close each size of valve to make sure the valve is fully closed. Frequently the valve must be worked back and forth, with an outlet for the loosened debris to drain out.

3. Removing all piping from the lead joint wet connection valve

To remove all piping from a lead joint means that the led joint itself must be burned out. Then the pipe must be removed along with all of the oakum used to hold it in place. Oakum is the actual material that makes the joint water tight. The actual lead is used to hold the oakum tightly in place.

Burning out the existing lead joint

4. Installing a short piece of pipe into the lead joint valve

In order to properly cap or plug a water line, a short piece of like-sized pipe has to be placed inside the wet connection valve. Before it is put in place, the inside of the valve must be carefully cleaned and free of any debris.

5. Caulking and installing a new lead joint

Once the short piece of pipe is in place, it must be caulked with oakum. Oakum is a special oil treated material that is great for water proofing. It must be packed in tightly, but not so tight that it cracks or damages the valve body. After the oakum is in place, molten lead is poured into the hub of the valve to hold the oakum place. The led itself is then caulked using specialized caulking tools. Since lead joint have not been used in decades, knowing how to remove and make lead joints is a lost art of sorts.

Installing a new lead joint includes placing a “runner” around the joint to be poured

6. Capping and rodding the line permanently closed

Since no piping will exist on the other side of the capped line, it must be rodded in place to prevent it from blowing apart. Lead joints can move or become unstable. Therefore rodding water piping is frequently a required part of sound  plumbing practice.

A capped, rodded, and plugged wet connection

7. The water main plug includes destroying the operating stem

To properly do a water main plug on service lines the connection has to be truly permanently capped. To be clear, it can never be used again as a connection for a water service line. With that said, the final step in plugging a wet connection valve is cutting off the portion of the valve step and operating nut the extends out of the body of the valve itself.

Balkan is Your NYC Sewer and Water Main Plug Expert

When is comes to permanently disconnecting  and plugging sewer and water service lines, Balkan is the expect in NYC. Balkan’s client list includes many of the most experienced and trusted demolition contractors and expediters in the entire NYC area. In addition, after water main plug work is done, Balkan is frequently hired to install the new sewer and water main connections when the property is re-developed.  Therefore, whether you need expert advice, services disconnected, or new services installed, contact Team Balkan.

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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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