Archive for the 'Backflow Prevention' Category

Varsity Plumbing and Heating of Flushing, Queens on Backflow Prevention Devices: Are you in compliance?

As seen in the July 16, 2013 issue of New York Real Estate Journal:

By Bobby Bellini, President, Varsity Plumbing and Heating, Inc.

Back in 2010, New York City initiated a vigorous enforcement campaign to ensure that all buildings requiring Backflow Prevention Devices have them properly installed and operational. Since then, thousands of properties have begun the long and sometimes very costly process of meeting the City’s requirements. Many have successfully completed their installations and testing, and have received the stamp of approval from the City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), yet tens of thousands, and possibly as many as 100,000 buildings have yet to finish—or even start—meeting their compliance requirements.

Backflow preventers, which are designed to prevent contaminated water or chemicals from flowing back into the public drinking water system, are required in a vast number of NYC buildings. At the start of the enforcement campaign, the City began mailing out compliance letters to buildings, giving them 30 days to initiate the process of installation, which requires the services of a licensed professional engineer or registered architect. In a recent conversation with the DEP’s Cross-Connection Control Unit (CCCU), which oversees the Backflow Prevention Outreach Program, we were told that at this point, nearly three years into the enforcement campaign, the DEP is guessing that over 200,000 buildings will need some sort of backflow preventer to safeguard the city’s water supply, and only a fraction of those have been finished as we write this in June 2013.

Act Now, Don’t Wait

            CCCU inspectors are currently flagging each building that needs a backflow preventer, as they go about their business and see issues. Once a building is flagged, a 30-Day Notice will be generated and mailed out to the owner or manager. Whether you have begun the process at your building yet, whether you have received a 30-Day Notice from the City or not, all property owners and managers should be working on meeting the City’s backflow prevention requirements NOW. Once you’ve received a 30-Day Notice, your building MUST respond to the CCCU with a progress report within those 30 days, proving that you have secured the services of a Licensed Master Plumber (LMP), a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) or a Registered Architect (RA) to begin the process of installation. We at Varsity have a complete turnkey system to help our clients handle this process, from Day One, with just one simple phone call to 877-VARSITY.

Avoid Surprises: Hire the Right Team

We have heard horror stories from managers who came to us after working with other contractors only to discover that their 30-Day Notices were never responded to and they were now facing violations. Or their engineer and plumber disagreed on what work had to get done and what it might cost. Our team of Licensed Engineers and Master Plumbers has seen thousands of properties since the DEP started the Backflow Prevention Outreach Program. We respond to your needs quickly and professionally, and tell you exactly what is needed to satisfy the CCCU and exactly how much it will cost.

Varsity’s fully licensed team includes an engineer and master plumber to do the analysis, file the plans, install and test the required devices and complete the follow-up paperwork, ensuring that all City codes and regulations are met. At Varsity we provide a one-call solution to this issue, from engineering to installation to compliance to DEP sign-off, simplifying a very complex process for building owners. If your building has already received a 30-Day Notice before you request a proposal from us, we will send out an immediate request for a 30-day compliance extension from DEP. Next, we prepare a specifications proposal based on your building’s needs and configuration. Once the proposal has been accepted by the building, our engineer sends a follow-up letter to the DEP explaining that his services have been retained, the process of compliance is under way, and requesting 90 days more to file the plans and applications. Once the plans are filed and approved by the DEP, the installation can be done. When the installation is complete, Varsity’s Licensed Master Plumber and Professional Engineer perform the required testing and inspection, and file the required reports with DEP and the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), which oversees the entire Backflow Prevention program, for final approval. Once this process has been completed, your building is in full compliance with the State and City backflow prevention regulations.

Failure to Comply Can Be Costly

Failure to comply can lead to fines of up to $2,000 and, if ignored, the City can shut off the water supply to the building. According to the DEP, the cost of installation ranges from $3,000 for a one-story building to around $35,000 for high-rises. Buildings with more complicated situations, such as elevated building drains or roof tanks that will require more powerful pumps after backflow prevention devices are installed, can face even higher costs. Because Backflow Preventers cost thousands of dollars, don’t be forced to rush into paying more then you need to just to avoid or cure a DEP violation. By calling Varsity, you will know exactly how much the job will cost you, and can plan those figures into your budget. Then, when you get your 30-day letter, and are on the DEP time clock, you will be ready to start the job and be prepared to pay for it.

Hundreds of co-op and condo buildings, managers and owners have chosen  

Varsity Plumbing to handle their backflow prevention needs because they know we care about their properties, and that we honor our founding principles, established by my father, Bob Bellini, who founded Varsity way back in 1962: do a good job; charge a fair price; stand behind your work; and always keep your word.

For more information on hiring licensed professionals to be sure your building is in compliance, or to request as proposal, contact me, President of Varsity Plumbing, at (718) 358-5400 or email your request to RJBellini@varsityplumbing.com. To view our informational video, go to bit.ly/18btvVs or scan the QR code below.

Scan the QR code to view our video on Backflow Prevention.

Scan the QR code to view our video on Backflow Prevention.

Bobby Bellini explains how a Backflow Preventer stops contaminants from flowing out of a building's water system and into the public drinking water supply.

Bobby Bellini explains how a Backflow Preventer stops contaminants from flowing out of a building’s water system and into the public drinking water supply.

An Update on the Backflow Prevention Outreach Program

We spoke recently to the NYC DEP Cross-Connection Control Unit (CCCU) this month, and they gave us some very interesting information regarding the Backflow Prevention Outreach Program. All of our clients—managers, owners, board members, superintendents, resident managers and facilities manager alike—need to keep the following in mind:

Backflow 30-Day Notices are Still Being Sent Out.

Rather than targeting a specific neighborhood or section of town, the CCCU is relying on their inspectors to flag each building that needs a backflow preventer. So as inspectors go about their business and see issues, they start the process. The DEP still is guessing that over 200,000 buildings will need some sort of backflow preventer to safeguard the city’s water supply, and only a fraction of those have been finished as we write this in June 2013.

Be Prepared—Have Your Inspections Done Before the CCCU Flags You.

We encourage you to be pro-active and contact us to inspect your property and figure out if you need a backflow preventer, what type, and to give you a firm cost estimate. This is the smartest way to go, because waiting for the 30-day letter opens you up to violations if you do not get back to the CCCU with a progress report within those 30 days.  Once you get the 30-day letter, you need to show that you have secured the services of a Licensed Master Plumber, a Licensed Professional Engineer or a Registered Architect. We at Varsity have a complete turnkey system to help our clients, and just one phone call from you gets the process started.

Avoid Surprises—Hire the Right Team.

We have heard horror stories from managers who came to us from other contractors; their 30-day letters were never responded to and they were now facing violations. Or their engineer and plumber disagreed on what work had to get done and what it might cost. Our team of Licensed Engineers and Licensed Master Plumbers has seen thousands of properties since the DEP started the Backflow Prevention Outreach Program. We respond to your needs quickly and professionally, and tell you exactly what is needed to satisfy the CCCU and exactly how much it will cost.

Know The Cost and Plan Out the Job.

Backflow Preventers cost thousands of dollars. Do not get rushed into paying more then you have to just to satisfy a DEP violation. By calling Varsity at 877-VARSITY (877-827-7489), you will know exactly how much the job will cost you, and can plan those figures into your budget. Then, when you get your 30-day letter, and are on the DEP time clock, you will be ready to start the job and be prepared to pay for it.

Have Your Annual Testing Done by a Certified Backflow Tester.

Our technicians are trained and certified backflow testers. You must have your device tested annually, and that report must be filed properly with the DEP. Be sure you are in compliance, and do not leave yourself open to violations. The City and the DEP are very serious about this issue, and fines and violations add up quickly. Protect the City’s water supply and protect your property by performing annual testing as required.

Hundreds of co-op and condo buildings, managers and owners have chosen Varsity Plumbing to handle their backflow prevention needs because they know we care about their properties, and that we honor our founding principles, established by founder Bob Bellini, way back in 1962:

• Do a Good Job • Charge a Fair Price

• Stand Behind Your Work • Always Keep Your Word

Be pro-active about installing required Backflow Prevention Devices. Call 877-VARSITY about our complete Turnkey Compliance Service.

Be pro-active about installing required Backflow Prevention Devices.  Call 877-VARSITY about our complete Turnkey Compliance Service.

Year-End Reflections

Bobby Bellini, President of Varsity Plumbing and Heating, Inc.

Bobby Bellini, President of Varsity Plumbing and Heating, Inc.

As our 50th Anniversary year draws to a close, we have lots to reflect on and many more things to plan for in the coming year.

We hope you took advantage of our 50th Anniversary discounts of $50 off, advertised on our Website and our Facebook pages. Our Anniversary celebrations also included educational events and recreational events for our customers.

For 50 years, we have honored our founding principles, established by my dad, Bob Bellini, way back in 1962:

• Do a Good Job • Charge a Fair Price
• Stand Behind Your Work • Always Keep Your Word

And we will continue to honor those principles as we move forward into the New Year and beyond. We want to make sure you know what we stand for, and that we know without our customers—old and new—there would be no Varsity Plumbing and Heating.  Thank you for trusting us with your homes, offices and properties.

With 2013 comes plenty to think about and be aware of regarding your property. Following is a round-up of some of the important issues facing property owners:

Backflow Preventers: This is a huge issue for building owners and managers now and into the future. Only about one-quarter of the 128,000 buildings the DEP has designated as needing backflow prevention devices have done the necessary installations.  When you get your 30-day notice, contact us immediately. We have a complete one-call turnkey program that takes you from filing an extension to examining your premises and choosing the correct device to having an engineer design the system to installation and compliance. This issue will not be going away any time soon, and we encourage you to take it seriously.

Water Filtration: More and more people are coming to the realization that our drinking water is not entirely safe.  From the lack of filtration at most of our reservoirs, to chemicals being added by many water departments, to water running through old corroded pipes, more and more people are concerned about the quality of their drinking water. The EPA has identified more than 84,000 potential contaminants, but requires municipalities to test drinking water for the presence of only 90.  We have installed under-the-kitchen-counter reverse osmosis systems for many clients, as well as whole building filtration systems to protect everyone in the buildings you are responsible for.

Lunch & Learn Seminars: Many managing agents and owners have had us come talk to them—in their office—about plumbing issues their buildings face. From backflow prevention devices to water filtration, we have helped many of our clients understand the regulations they face and how to operate under the rules simply and at a reasonable cost.

Building-Wide Pipe De-Scaling: Our building-wide electronic de-scaling systems keep your pipes, boilers and hot water heaters running at the peak of efficiency while removing mineral “hardness” from your entire water supply. Instead of spending thousands of dollars a year on salt, which can cause health problems, these systems use a low voltage electronic vibration that shakes deposits loose over time, preventing future build-up. Water hardness is reduced to the point where it actually extends the life of water heaters and boilers.

Hurricane Sandy: Superstorm Sandy taught us all the hard lesson of how important it is to have back-up generators ready to pump water out of basements—and even higher floors—and boiler rooms, and up to residents for drinking water and flushing during power outages. We know how to install these generators so they won’t get flooded when water fills the basement, and we also know how to design pumping systems to prevent those basements from filling up with water. Let us do a walk-through of your property to help you improve your building’s preparedness and prevent future long-term damage when another big storm hits.

Please call us at 877-VARSITY to schedule an on-site analysis, a Lunch & Learn session, or to address any of your plumbing, heating, cooling, or water quality needs. We are available 24/7 and eager to help.

From our family to yours, Happy Holidays and here’s wishing you and your family a healthy and prosperous New Year!fireworks

Varsity’s Lunch & Learn Seminars Bring Valuable Information to Your Office

Varsity’s new Lunch & Learn program brings a wealth of information right into your conference room. Whether your managers want more information about the City’s mandatory Backflow Prevention campaign, protecting the quality of your buildings’ drinking water, or increasing the efficiency and longevity of pipes, boilers, hot water heaters and other building-wide systems, we can custom design a program to meet your needs.

Over a delicious lunch, which we’ll bring right to your office, I’ll go over important life-saving, health-protecting, and money-saving issues from fire suppression to water quality to avoiding fines for non-compliance with City regulations. I’ll even explain how to reduce the cost of ordinary plumbing work like leaky faucets and running toilets.

Our Lunch & Learn program can be as brief as one hour, or can be a series of two-hour presentations to keep your managers up-to-date in the ever-changing landscape of City regulations, water conservation, and energy efficiency.

Last week in Brooklyn we presented a Lunch & Learn session to a group of managers, maintenance supervisors and maintenance staff members at the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The RBSCC owns and manages over 2,000 residential units in 120 buildings throughout Brooklyn and Queens.

One of their main concerns was when to call in a Licensed professional. In many situations, their experienced maintenance crew is capable of doing the work, but the managers are aware that certain jobs require the work be done and signed-off by a Licensed Master Plumber or Fire Suppression Contractor. In making such decisions, it’s vital to consider that if a problem arises after a repair or installation is done, insurance and warranty are invalidated if the task has been done by a non-Licensed professional. This could expose owners and managers to huge expenses, which could be avoided by a simple phone to Varsity to see if the job in question can be handled in-house. While the cost of the job may be higher initially, it could save the building a lot of money in the long run.

As past President of the Master Plumbers Council of the City of New York and President of Varsity Plumbing and Heating, Inc., I have a wealth of knowledge that I want to share with property managers and building owners in our region. My father, Bob Bellini, founded Varsity Plumbing 50 years ago, and today my brothers and I strive to carry on the tradition by providing the best in plumbing services to all our customers. Recently, we partnered with Easy Water to bring more water quality products to the New York region, including under-the-counter Reverse Osmosis filtration systems, building-wide filtration systems and building-wide electronic de-scaling systems that remove minerals from your building’s water, improving the efficiency and life-expectancy of all your plumbing systems, and providing safer, better tasting drinking water.

In addition, we can give you tips on how to get the best plumbing service possible at the best rates, with the personal attention you deserve. We welcome everything from ordinary plumbing jobs like leaks to building-wide jobs like fire suppression inspections and installations.

Call or email us today to set up a Lunch & Learn presentation in your office. 877-VARSITY or info@varsityplumbing.com.

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While some plumbing job can easily be done in-house, there are other tasks that require a Licensed plumber. A quick call to Varsity can save you from making the wrong decision, which could invalidate your insurance and/or warranty.

Backflow Prevention 201: What Device is Right for Your Building?

We’ve all been hearing about backflow prevention for our buildings, and to the layman it sounds mysterious and confusing. Here are a few definitions that will make your proposals easier to understand and your decision-making simpler:

     The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has determined that backflow from buildings might cause a serious health hazard to our drinking water supply. As a result the DEC’s clean water campaign, approximately 128,000 buildings in NYC need to install backflow preventers. The City agency that is overseeing this project is the Cross Connection Unit of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

A cross connection is the actual or potential connection between a non-potable substance or source and a potable source.

     Various types of backflow preventers exist for different wastewater applications and health hazard conditions. You must use a licensed plumber to install these devices, and a licensed backflow tester to test them. The plumber should know the city and state codes that specify the correct backflow device to use in each situation, and an engineer must do a preliminary survey to confirm this. Following are descriptions of the different devices:

     Reduced Pressure Backflow Preventer—RPZ: The Reduced Pressure Principle Assembly (RP) is the best mechanical means of preventing backflow pressure and back siphonage. These assemblies are the most expensive backflow prevention devices but are the best way to protect against cross connections.

     Double Check Valve Backflow Preventers—Model DCV: The Double Check Valves are used in non-health hazard (pollutant) conditions only and are designed to protect against backflow pressure and back siphonage. These devices have TWO check valves in line designed to prevent backflow.

     Dual Check Valve: The Dual Check Valve or double backflow prevention valve is basically a stripped down Double Check Valve without shut-off valves and test cocks. They are non-testable and are typically used by water companies and installed after a water meter to prevent the meter from running backwards. This piece of equipment is the center of controversy with many backflow authorities and should never be confused with Double Check Valves. Check with local authorities for required installation, as most do not recognize these as backflow prevention devices.

     Atmospheric Vacuum Breaker—AVB: The atmospheric vacuum breaker is one of the least expensive backflow prevention assemblies. The AVB is a non-testable unit and is good for back siphonage. They must be installed downstream from any shut-off valves and cannot be under pressure for more than 12 hours. These units will NOT prevent backflow pressure and can only protect against back siphonage.

     Pressure Vacuum Breaker—PVB: A pressure vacuum breaker is similar to an Atmospheric Vacuum Breaker but can be installed before the shut-off valves. Check with local authorities as some do not allow the use of a PVB at all. A PVB backflow preventer may spill or spit water out from under the cap, so it should always be installed in a location where water spillage is OK. These units will NOT prevent backflow pressure and only protect against back siphonage.

As you can see, you must be careful to hire a professional licensed plumber who knows the difference between all of these backflow devices and which ones can be used in which applications.

If you have any questions about any of these devices, or are having a hard time getting a straight answer, please call me directly at 1-877-VARSITY (827-7489), and I will help you figure out how to proceed—at no obligation, of course.

caption: Varsity Plumbing and Heating, Inc. is a family-owned and operated business, now celebrating its 50th Anniversary. Below, far right, is founder Bob Bellini with his sons, from left, Rick (Vice President), Tom (Vice President) and Bobby (President), and sons-in-law Robert McConnell (Field Supervisor) and Mike Lyons (Chief Financial Officer).

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Backflow Prevention 101: What You Need to Know to be in Full Compliance

Watch our video about Backflow Prevention

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Backflow preventers are causing all of us headaches and expense these days.  We need to install them in most residential buildings in New York City, and many commercial properties throughout the country are also subject to local, state and federal regulations requiring the installation of backflow prevention devices.

The Origins of the Backflow Prevention Law

     But why? Well, for an explanation, you need to go back to 1969, to Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass.  That year, the entire football team came down with Hepatitis A, and the school had to cancel all of the games.  After months of forensic testing, it was determined that a water fountain the players used had been contaminated with Hepatitis. How? The scenario went like this:  On August 29th , while the players were practicing, firefighters  battled a blaze nearby, which caused a drop in water pressure, which allowed ground water to seep into the practice field’s irrigation system—which also supplied the field with a drinking fountain.  That ground water had been contaminated by a group of children living near the practice facility, who were already infected with hepatitis. Once players drank from the contaminated faucet, they became infected.

And that is the genesis of all the rules and regulations concerning backflow prevention. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the federal agency that oversees the environment across the country, there are so many health issues relating to ground water, contaminated water and drinking water, that backflow preventers are required as a matter of course to protect the public’s health.

How Can Water Become Contaminated?

     The main areas of concern, according to the EPA, is a point called the cross-connection, where non-potable water can become mixed with potable water.  Backflow can occur when the pressure in the potable water distribution system becomes negative, or the pressure in the contaminated source exceeds the pressure in the distribution system.

The following are just a few of the ways this might occur:

• Water Main Breaks

• Flushing of a building’s water system due to repairs

• Emergency Firefighting water drawdown

• A garden hose submerged in a pesticide or soap mixture

• A pressure change in a cooling tower

To ensure the public’s health and safety, the EPS drafted regulations, which required the installation of backflow preventers, in certain circumstances, nationwide, and directed each state to draft laws to enforce those regulations.  New York State did just that in 1980, but the real estate lobby sued to prevent those laws from being enforced, citing the expense to property owners. The law has finally begun to be enforced in New York City, and that is where we find ourselves today.

Who Needs a Backflow Prevention Device?

     If your building is more than six stories high, or has a cooling tower, or a water pressure tank on the roof, or a laundry room with more than two machines, or a restaurant, or a medical office, or a dry cleaner, or a host of other scenarios, you most likely will need to install a backflow prevention device.

New York City’s DEP is in charge of this operation, and they are sending out notices to building owners telling them that they need to get their property in compliance with the law, and install a backflow device to protect their water distribution system.

There are a few different types of backflow devices, and an engineer must visit your site to determine which type to use. The engineer must then draw up plans, submit them to the NYC Cross-Connection Unit, get them approved, and then you must have the device installed by a NYS certified backflow installer. After installation, the engineer must verify that the correct type of device was properly installed, and submit that statement to the city. After all this is completed, your building will be in compliance.

And that is how we find ourselves at this juncture, with so many of us being forced to protect ourselves and our neighbors by having a backflow prevention device installed in our buildings. Varsity offers one-stop turnkey service to get your building into full compliance. We do everything from the engineering survey to installation to compliance filing. Please call me, Bobby Bellini, at 877-VARSITY or email me at rjbellini@varsityplumbing.com to set up an appointment for your free analysis and estimate.

Look for my next blog update: Which backflow device is right for you?


Bobby Bellini, President of Varsity Plumbing and Heating, Inc.

50th anniversary