The NYC DEP issues cease and desist orders for all sorts of environmental infractions. Basically a cease and desist order is an order to stop an activity and become code complaint. It can pertain to anything from a noise violation to water or air pollution. This article will explain typical orders issued by the NYC DEP for house sewer violations. As in all DEP violations the time frame permitted to correct the situation depends on the severity of the infraction. In some cases a DEP order may be only to gain access to a property to take a water sample or verify that correct hardware is in place and to code.
Examples of house sewer line infractions
- Unlawful discharge or connection to a NYC sewer
In some instances a house sewer may be improperly connected to a public sewer. This may have occurred accidentally or intentionally from a sewer contractor who connected waste water (sanitary) flow to a storm sewer, or connected storm flow to a sanitary sewer. In some cases a contractor may have mistakenly connected to the wrong public sewer in the roadway or crossed his sewer connections. If they crossed connected two sewers then both sanitary and storm house sewers will be connected to the wrong public sewer. In some cases a sewer contractor may have intentionally connected to the wrong sewer or combined connections as a means to save labor and material during the initial installation.
Regardless of the reason for the incorrect connections the current property owner will be fully responsible to reconnect properly to the correct city sewer. This will entail hiring a NYC licensed master plumber who must then secure proper permits and arrange for NYC DEP inspections. After the required inspection has been completed by a DEP Field Inspector sign-offs will be generated to document that the violation has been corrected.
Unlawful discharge can mean a number of things. But for the typical homeowner it may mean allowing rain water to flow onto the roadway instead of being connected to an available city storm or combined sewer in the roadway. In many areas of NYC storm or combined sewers are not available for connection, or the house was built prior to the city sewer being available. In these cases the house in question is typically given grandfather status – no violation is issued.
In other cases unlawful discharge can mean eliminating ground water through the city sewer or certain types of commercial waste water. Examples of waste water from commercial properties that must be treated are heavy grease from restaurants, petroleum products, highly acidic water, or highly alkaline waste water. Some remedies include a grease interceptor trap or water treatment tanks to neutralize acid or alkaline conditions. As in all cases only a NYC Licensed Master Plumber can perform this corrective work and the current owner or tenant are responsible for all expenses incurred.
- Defective house sewer line connection
Seemingly more commonplace recently are property owners being violated for defective house sewer line connections. You may ask “How can the City may know if my house sewer line is defective?” – there is a simple answer. Frequently sinkholes or potholes appear in the roadway on a recurring basis in the same location. A few years back the DEP began to place cameras into house sewers to check for improper or broken connections that may be the cause of the roadway defects. They also began doing dye tests to track for leaking sewer pipe joints as a cause of the sinkages in the roadway.
When it is determined that the cause of the roadway defect is from a house sewer a DEP cease and desist order is issued. The order typically allows thirty days for the property owner to correct the sewer condition. Non-compliance with the cease and desist order can result in the DEP sending out a work crew to excavate and close the tap connection for the violated properties water supply. Once the DEP closes a tap connection there is a $1,000.00 charge on top of all the other expenses to correct the original sewer defect.
What happened in the past?
In the past such roadway sinkholes and wash-outs were just repeatedly patched with asphalt by the DOT without ever correcting the underlying cause of the problem. Over time the roadway would become severely damaged and the eventual sewer repair would be even more costly. In many documented cases newly paved roadways would become pot-holed and damaged within months of being paved due to longstanding and undiscovered sewer defects. It may some onerous and excessive to receive a cease and desist order, but in the long run it is a cost-savings to all concerned parties including the affected homeowner.
Your hiring decision for repairing a defective sewer line
As in most cases you should never panic or rush into a hiring decision. It is best to verify licensing, experience, and insurance with a plumber you are considering hiring. Hiring an unlicensed plumber to correct a DEP notice or violation will not close out the issue – only a NYC Licensed Master Plumber can secure permits and arrange for required inspections.
Carefully screening a plumber also means making sure they secure proper permits, DEP inspections are performed, and you receive a hard-copy of the sign-offs. If the violation involves a sink-hole in the roadway make sure the quote includes repairing the sink-hole. Never take anything for granted – make sure everything is put in writing beforehand.
Joseph L. Balkan, Inc. | Sewer and Water Main Specialists
130-01 Jamaica Avenue Richmond Hill, NY 11418
Phone: (718) 849-0900 | Espanol (718) 943-5720 | Fax: (718) 849-9570