When a water tap leaks or gets clogged it is first important to understand how it functions and its various components. A water line connection is needed for a water service line to be connected to the New York City water main. It is installed by DEP field forces at a set fee that is charged to the Licensed Master Plumber who is installing or upgrading the service line. Tap connections up to 2” in size are screwed into the Button city main and are threaded on either side. The core of the tap is actually a ball valve that needs only a quarter of a turn to either open or close. A tap has a notch on the side so determining if it is fully opened or closed is easy to determine.
Sometimes a wet tap connection will leak after it is initially installed or more frequently at a later date. Depending on what area of the water tap leaks will determine what action can be taken to stop the leak. All instructions below are meant for licensed master plumbers or persons directly under their supervision. No other individuals should ever attempt to work on a water line connection.
The Core, the Valve Portion of the Tap Connection
The core of a tap connection has a packing nut just like most valves. Frequently if a conection is hard to open or close the packing nut just has to be loosened. After it is loosened a half a turn or so it should be able to be operated. If it still will not move it can be gently tapped with a hammer on the threads protruding from the packing nut to loosen it up a bit. Always remember to tighten up the packing nut afterwards.
Very frequently water tap leaks will be from out of the core of the fitting. The water tap leak can frequently be stopped by tightening the packing nut with a wrench. If the leak has been present for a while the core may have been worn away from the running water and the connection will have to be replaced. In some rare instances just the core of the tap will have to be changed; but that would require the city main to be turned off.
When a Water Tap Leaks at the Base of the Fitting
Most water leaks on a tap are from the base of the fitting – where the tap connection screws into the city main. In some cases where corrosion is not present and the tap and main seem sound, an attempt can be made to tighten the tap into the city water main. In many cases the connection can be tightened to stop a leak. It is advised to apply pipe joint compound and lamp wick to the threads before tightening.
The Threads Connecting to the Service Line
In very rare cases the threads on the top of the connection can be worn or scarred. Sometimes when a water tap leaks the connection can be re-threaded by using a hand tool and applying even and gentle pressure. In other cases using a goose neck fitting instead of an elbow will allow for a leak-free connection. Unlike an elbow a goose neck connects to the tap by using a washer. A goose neck does not require as many threads as an elbow to make a water tight and leak free connection.
Removing an Existing Leaking Water Tap Connection
When a tap connection has to be removed there are two methods to accomplish that. One method is by using an extracting tool (similar to an easy-out tool). The inside of a tap connection is also threaded only it is reverse-threaded. By inserting an extracting tool a DEP taping crew can extract a defective connection and insert a new tap with minimal loss of water. The other more intrusive way to remove a leaking water tap connection is by deliberately blowing it out of the city main and inserting a plug. DEP field forces can then drill through the plug and install a new connection.
In some cases, particularly when the city main is damaged or corroded a stainless steel sleeve will be placed over the plug. A new connection can then be installed in a different section of the city water main. A second option is if a taped sleeve is used. A taped sleeve allows for a new connection to be screwed directly onto the stainless steel sleeve.
Working on water valves
Working on any type of water valve requires skill, expertise, and a familiarity with that particular type of valve. But connections on a city main are particularly critical as they directly involve the public drinking supply and the integrity of the actual City main line.
NYC Licensed Master Plumbers and persons under their direct employ are the only private individuals permitted to work on these connections. In addition even these individuals must have proper permits and frequently be in close contact with the NYC DEP inspection, permit, and supervisory personnel.