A Routine NYC Water Main Repair Turns Into A Plumbing Emergency

Water Main Service
August 31, 2012

by David Balkan

water line leak

Even carefully planned NYC water main repair work can result in unexpected conditions and situations.  Recently Balkan Sewer And Water Main Service was hired to simply close two different connections in the roadway. This would allow a plumber to change the valves inside the building. Due to the connections being located under the roadway on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, the NYC DOT required that the work be performed at night from 10PM to 6AM. Working in Manhattan often requires off-hours work due to traffic conditions and other situations, such as special events.

main repair
Exposed wet connection

Even though working at night requires additional coordination and supervision, it posed no problem to Balkan and the scope was work was still relatively simple. DEP connection records were secured and the main repair job was pre-inspected. This included making sure the water line connections, and all underground utilities carefully marked out. Everything was proceeding according to plan, as both wet connections were exposed. One of the connections had actually already been turned off with the plumber changing the inside valve.

Unexpected events change the tone of this NYC water main repair

As the crew foreman was opening a wet connection in one excavation, he heard a sound like rushing air from inside the excavation where the other wet connection was located. That was followed shortly by the top of the wet connection blowing right off of the 4″ valve in the hole resulting in an emergency water main break. That immediately changed a planned main repair job, into an unexpected and chaotic situation.

broken bolts
Rotted bolts from a 4″ valve
broken valve
Top of valve blew off

As it turned out all the bolts holding the top of the valve in place were completely rotted out. The bolts actually all snapped in half. It seems that all that was holding the valve together was the dirt on the top of the valve. What had been planned maintenance work quickly became a water main repair emergency on 5th Avenue in midtown Manhattan, and at 4AM on a Wednesday morning.

The unexpected calls for a professional and timely response

When an unexpected emergency water main break occurs the residents of NYC depend on various city agencies and the plumber on site to seamlessly work together. A vital part of quick response and a fast solution is the NYC 311 system. Balkan used the online 311 system to notify the DEP that an emergency shutdown of the city main in 5th Avenue was needed to avert damage and traffic congestion for the upcoming rush hour.

water line leak
Water main emergency

To it’s great credit the NYC DEP responded in minutes to Balkans request and gave assurance that a Field Supervisor would be on site shortly. As a matter of fact the DEP was onsite in less than an hour from the initial 311 call closing off the gates for the city water main that fed the broken 6″ service line. The NYC DEP’s timely response was integral in preventing disruption to tenants, traffic, and the potential for a great deal of damage.

Another important factor was the fact the Paul R. Balkan arrived on site  with all the specialty materials needed to permanently repair the defective 4″ wet connection. With having well over 30 years of experience in the field Paul R. Balkan remains calm under pressure and provides commonsense answers and solutions.

In addition the DOT permitted work to continue uninterrupted until its conclusion. The DOT’s understanding in this matter allowed for repairs to be completed properly and all excavations to be left flush with the roadway and traffic ready. City Agencies working together with private industry in an emergency is a win-win situation for all New Yorkers.

The usual exception to professionalism…

traffic ticket
Traffic Agent in action

As most New Yorkers know all too well the Traffic Agents of NYC are unforgiving and relentless in their pursuit of writing summonses regardless of the situation. So even with a major water main break and water rushing all over 5th Avenue there arrived two Traffic Intelligence Unit Agents.

With their one agenda in mind  they quickly whipped out their cameras and began taking photos impervious to the conditions they witnessed. Disrupting an emergency repair or actually maintaining traffic control are not major issues to a Traffic Agent; writing as many summonses as possible is their main goal.

Expect the unexpected in the NYC water main business

NYC water main repair and sewer repair work is anything but routine. The only thing routine is that every day presents challenges and situations that are different than the previous one. Foreseeing these issues and conditions is very difficult even though City records are obtained and work is carefully planned and supervised.

The real key to being prepared for virtually any sewer and water main situation is a complete devotion to service. That would entail many aspects of an operation including owners of the business being in the field and in-house at all times. Additionally facilities must be stocked with a complete array specialty vehicles, tools, materials, and the personnel trained to handle and install them.

Since 1952 the Balkan family has forged relationships with vendors and a rock-solid relationship with various city agencies. Balkan has developed systems and procedures for all aspects of the operation and has a devoted field and support staff. Add in a 48,000 square foot facility stocked with every conceivable piece of equipment or tool and you have a complete package that assures professional service and top-notch installations. When the unexpected occurs Balkan provides an on-point response and a timely solution to the sewer or water main issue.

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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.

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