Should Plumbers Turn Water Oil and Off?
Evils of the Practice Pointed Out—May Be Cause of Loss of Revenue — Only the Water Department Employees Should Do This
THE following suggestions as to the proposal to allow plumbers to shut off and turn on street services in St. Paul contain some excellent wisdom and no doubt will provide hints to superintendents of other water departments wrestling with this problem :
The integrity of the water department records would be uncertain, should plumbers shut off and turn on water at their pleasure. Department men specializing in that work are naturally more experienced and more careful in fully completing the shut-off or turn-on and less liable to damage street stop and box cover in hunting for it and in properly replacing it—an important thing in this climate where the dead air space is a factor in frost protection. An open stop box is a standing temptation to children to fill it up. causing expense to the department. Department men lose less time in search for it. as they carry the stop measurement from the office record. A valve rod is specially made and they know which rod to take. They know whether a long or short rod is required and the size of street pipe, enabling them to judge the pressure required without breaking the catch on the stop or valve, as the case may be. A partial turn-on or shut-off often causes waste at the drip in the stop box, a clear loss to the department. The entry is usually made before they leave the office, and thus assures the correctness of department records.
Some Evils From Plumber Doing Work
The plumber on the other hand may overlook reporting it for some days, or perhaps forget it entirely. Urgent telephone calls to the water office may compel the sending out of a man. In case of repairs, the plumber perhaps acting under order of property owner or agent, and department on request of tenant, or the reverse, may cause confusion in the department and loss of time in fixing responsibility for error. Where two pipes are laid in the same ditch, cross connections may not be disclosed some times for years, causing an ugly condition in collecting and accounting, with much ill feeling. Cross connections would cause false entries on our books and perhaps result in failure to enforce prompt payment of bills with resulting friction and dispute between owner, tenant and department.
After the department shuts off for non-payment, the plumber may turn on and “neglect to report it. If the plumber fails to locate stop a department smployee must be sent out. Night and day men would be required in any event, and the department would be compelled to do it in case of delay in finding the plumber. In case of delay causing damage, department might be held responsible, especially when it lays service in street.
Would Cause Loss of Revenue to Department
The service charge on large atrd small consumers starts front the date of turn-on shown on our ledgers, and pro rata of consumption is also based on that date, thus causing loss of revenue to the department in case the plumber delays report or forgets it or guesses at it. He would probably claim he telephoned the department and insist on that privilege. We certainly could not allow them into our four and a half miles of tunnels, and if we did they would be lost, as our own men require constant training to determine the proper drill hole where several are in the same drift. Where two stops are controlled by one meter, our records show it before men leave the office. Where there is more than one service to a property our records show it. The plumber might not discover it without much loss of time. It would annoy the consumer and cause him unnecessary expense at times, and cause loss to the department in revenue. Fixing responsibility on a plumber who has left the city will give little satisfaction. If it should become known that plumbers do this work, journeymen and others may make their own roils and use them to help out friends without report to the department. Mixed responsibility is liable to cause endless dispute between the property owner, the plumber and the department. Outside plumbers have caused trouble already, as have two St. Paul plumbers, with others under suspicion.
Department Men Trained in Discovering Leaks
Department men have become so trained in looking for underground leaks by the sound conveyed on shut off rod that they frequently save time and expense in locating the weak spot. Up to 1923 our service pipes in cellar were laid 18 inches under ground, and in some cases plumbers still follow that practice.
Urgent need of contractors could easily prevail on plumbers to turn on water for construction purposes, and shut it off when building is completed, leaving the department in ignorance and without record or revenue. In may cases the revenue would be a substantial sum.
With our office centrally located as to 520 miles of mains and over 52,000 live accounts, department control is the best practice for this city. I realize, however, that departments not so situated and covering greater area and population may find it expedient to adopt the opposite practice, and take their chance.
Department employees naturally feel a greater sense of responsibility in doing the work and they have a “pride of profession” as well as the higher ups.
Old department men have become so trained in looking for underground leaks by the sound conveyed by shut-off rod that they have become quite expert in approximating leak and the extent of it at the weak spot.
Up to 1923 our rules required service pipes in cellar to be located 12 inches underground, a practice carried out in some cases.