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How illegal was this gas condition?

PennyS
PennyS Member Posts: 3
I am on a co-op board in a high-rise NYC building, and found out that a few years ago the building manager worked with a contractor to hide an illegal gas repair from the board for months. During a project to replace our radiator pipes, a plumber noticed that a connection on the main gas line had a leak that was previously "fixed" by someone smearing a big wad of grease over the leak. Apparently that illegal fix occured a long time earlier.

The contractors told the manager about the grease-repair, and instead of telling the board the manager worked with this plumbing contractor to hide the condition for six months while they worked out a plan. Eventually the manager told the board that our gas main needed replacement, but never mentioned the leak. He had a pretty clever plan in mind to not repair anything but instead just install new pipes parallel to the old ones, and then bottle the building and do a rapid switchover from the old pipes to the new pipes in one day with DOB and ConEd present, to avoid a long gas outage. Of course they never told DOB or ConEd about the leak. The plumber and manager were apparently working on this plan over those six months. Clever yes, but when I found out from our super that the manager hid this dangerous condition for months I became livid. The super got into a dispute with the manager and showed me evidence of this gas issue, which is pretty compelling.

Of course we need to fire the manager. That's obvious. My question is: was it illegal of the manager or contractor to knowingly keep the gas running with grease as the only thing stopping a leak? Did they violate the law or was it just unethical to not tell us? Is there any agency that should be informed about this, assuming we have enough proof of what happened?

Comments

  • BillyO
    BillyO Member Posts: 274
    contact NYC BSIU. Buildings Special investigation Unit. If Plumbing contractor is licensed in NYC this is where I would start
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,593
    You have video of someone using grease as a gas repair in your building?
    Anything other than hearsay and speculation?
    How did you "find out" the building Manager hid an illegal gas repair. Old Lady Gibbons in 42B?

    I know pretty much nothing about co-ops and boards and high rises, and pigeon poop, but it seems a building manager was made aware of a situation, planned, scheduled, and performed the repair. And everyone lived to tell about it.
    Does a building safety repair need board approval? Or even notification? Yellow tape maybe?

    What would a building Manager have to gain, or lose by letting someone slap grease on a gas leak? He doesn't have to pay for the repair. I'm not saying there aren't any shady characters in NYC, its probably 50/50.
    Just saying maybe you should have facts or files or video or a scientific grease analysis or emails or post-it notes or fingerprints before you want to ruin someone's life. Maybe you should recuse yourself from the board.
    "Of course we need to fire the manager. That's obvious. Isn't that right Biff and Buffy? Pass the Grey Poupon."

    I dont know where the "Don't wait, call 8" website is. Sorry.
    B_SloaneAlan (California Radiant) ForbesBillyOIntplm.
  • BillyO
    BillyO Member Posts: 274
    A permit is absolutely required by a licensed plumber to do any gas pipe repair. Was a permit pulled for work?
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,593
    > @BillyO said:
    > A permit is absolutely required by a licensed plumber to do any gas pipe repair. Was a permit pulled for work?

    I believe all the proper government municipal Acronym's were involved.
    BillyO
  • CantabHeat
    CantabHeat Member Posts: 33
    The relevant agencies would probably take this quite seriously if what you say is accurate. Several buildings have blown up (literally blown to a pile of rubble) in NYC in recent years from dodgy gas work. ConEd now does “mandatory” inspections of gas lines in buildings to look for shoddy work And doesn’t hesitate to shut of gas immediately if anything is found. Best to be proactive about things at this point.
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,287
    edited February 2020
    DOB & Con Ed wasn't involved? I think the gas to this building will be cut off when they find out.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/08/nyregion/millie-peartree-fish-fry-soul-food-restaurant.html

    https://gothamist.com/food/bronx-institution-loesers-kosher-deli-may-close-after-60-years

    After you fire this guy, he will make an anonymous call to 311.



  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,330
    The regulations in NYC seem to be a "which came first, the chicken or the egg" conversation. Are the rules so tight because people are doing shoddy unpermitted work, or are people doing unpermitted work because the rules make it impossible to get anything done?

    Back to the OP, where was the leak located? Was it inside the building? In a confined space?
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    SlamDunkBillyOmikeg2015
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,689
    The egg came first.
    steve
    ZmanIntplm.
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,330

    The egg came first.

    I think the answer is neither. Evolution created both the chicken and the NYC codes :D
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    CanuckerIntplm.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,689
    edited February 2020
    Wouldn't it seem logical as evolution was doing it's thing, something that wasn't a chicken would've had to hatch out of an egg, and for the first time be recognized as a chicken?
    I mean an egg has always been an egg...

    Yes...I'm bored, mild winter.
    steve
    Zman
  • PennyS
    PennyS Member Posts: 3
    As to the questions from those who replied:

    The Department of Buildings and ConEd inspected at the end of the project when there was a switchover from the old piping to the new piping. The agencies were never told that there was a leak, just that we were installing a new line.

    The evidence was: photos, emails describing this issue that were saved going back to the start of the project, and three other employees of this same plumbing contractor who said they were there and told to shut up about the gas.

    This was the gas main serving over 180 apartments in a 22 story building, the leak was in a nook of the lobby ceiling underneath apartments.

    Yes, this was in the past, and Yes, I get it that no one blew up. And I guess the grease worked for that length of time. But just deciding to keep this to yourself??? Aren't they supposed to report when they find leaks, even if they're able to get it to hold?
  • icy78
    icy78 Member Posts: 402
    Saving emails and photos doesn't sound like covering up to me.....
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,287
    edited February 2020
    You say it took six months...I wonder how Con-Ed would have reacted if they were told there was a gas leak when it was found? And, that leads to another question, would you have wanted Con-ed to be told first? Or, the board to be told first?

    The alleged cover up doesn't smell good but cover ups are usually the result of the environment one is working in.

    Sounds like the building manager was walking a very delicately through a mine field to keep the gas on while corrective actions were being made. Who was writing the checks for the work and why weren't questions being asked then?

    You may want to fire him, but another co-op would probably want to hire him. You didn't have 180 tenants screaming for a rebate and you didn't have to buy 180 hotplates.

    Tough call. I would probably instill more budgetary oversight, create a better environment where these things can be discussed without fear of repercussions- and give him a raise.
    HVACNUTIntplm.
  • unclejohn
    unclejohn Member Posts: 1,757
    Makes me wonder what would have happen if the leak was made known and the building shut down for 6 months the lost revenue, the relocating of families and so on if the guy wouldn't have been fired for speaking up.
    HVACNUTSlamDunk
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,523
    I'm curious to know what sort of leak was temporarily sealed with grease? I would think something from the epoxy or synthetic rubber family would be a better choice, unless it was a grease packed valve that had dried out.
  • PennyS
    PennyS Member Posts: 3
    I see. Wow such a range of opinions. In terms of cover-up the emails were not with board, just between the manager and contractor. The super today provided a cell phone recording of a meeting where the manager was discussing options with that contractor. Just listened. They said it was wax, not grease, and it was over a joint on a 3-inch pipe. They said that if ConEd found out they would have turned off the gas immediately and flipped out... but the plumbers were very casual about it as if wax was no big deal... Almost flippant like why aren't we still allowed to use this method. Reminds me of when an asbestos inspector once said that he thinks they should still be using asbestos in sealants and all sorts of insulation. When someone is in an industry they get sooo casual about stuff they see that would really bother others.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,002
    If there was a leak Con Ed would have shut the building down and you would have probably been the first one to flip out on the manager.

    Safety can never be disregarded.

    What are the alternatives to what they did?
    1.The building would have been shut down
    2. The plumbing contractor would obtain a permit
    3. Then he would have fixed the leak
    4. Then he probably would have has to access every single tennent space to to cap the gas lines and do a pressure test.
    5. Then get the inspection
    6. The get the gas turned on
    7. Then bleed the gas piping and restore service

    Every leak is serious and needs to be addressed. How did they find out about the leak? Did someone smell gas.If no one smelled gas and seeing how this was an existing gas main that had previously passed inspection we are probably talking about a small leak.

    this is what I would have done:

    If I thought there was imminent danger I would have shut down the gas. If it was a tiny leak I would have left it on and

    I would have called in the local inspector, hoping that he would allow a repair to that section of pipe and then allow gas to be restored without pressure testing by using a soap bubble test along with a gas testing with an electronic tester.

    The inspector may or may not have gone along with this. IN NYC they may not, If not you shut down,






  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,287
    I'd fire the Back stabbing super.
    BillyO
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 3,198

    The egg came first.

    I think not.... as the Chicken (laying in bed with the Egg) lit up a cigarette... the egg rolled over in bed and said "I guess that answers that question"
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    SlamDunkGordoZman
  • unclejohn
    unclejohn Member Posts: 1,757
    @edTheHeaterMan Had too read it twice.
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,178
    I agree, it sounds more like trying to keep the building up than hiding a dangerous condition. How long was the leak there before it was found? ''Hiding" it was uncool, but he may have been trying to protect the Board from the liability of knowing about it & then being forced to call it in, which would certainly have meant a shutdown.
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,740
    Masterly written john and the truth ,it’s so easy to get anyone fired ,just hope the next one will even care about the tenant or be as knowledgeable as the last one . In this day and age there’s always got to be some one who takes the fall .maybe he should have contacted con Ed and let them shut it down for repairs and wait , Wonder if you would have fired or hung him if he did shut down the gas . Instead of firing him maybe you should have put yourself in his shoes ,what exactly would you have done ,go after the installation or fitters who installed many years ago . As a boat owner and family member once told me anybody can get a boat or be on a co op board the hard part is selling the boat and getting off the board and find some one else w free time to sit on the board as aide complaints .what I wonder is what would the board wanted him to do in some cases why you think the grease was there ,why you think they were doing a new main ,I guess for exercise and fun and cause they could . Crazy and vengeful .i hope he gets better paying and more rewarding and understanding bosses on a new job in the future . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    ChrisJ
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,917
    @clammy Thank you. The consequences of gas repairs and inspections not going well are long lasting and include an endless amount of finger-pointing not to mention costs and inconvenience to all involved. It's a mess.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber for Consulting Work
    Or for plumbing in NYC or in NJ.

    Or take his class.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,002
    There's gas leaking all over the place especially the gas utilities underground piping.
    Intplm.
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,287
    I have said it before: NYC is a tough place.
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,485
    My mother in law lives in a coop in Manhattan. There was work being done in one of the units. Contractor hit gas pipe. Con Ed shut down gas. Repair itself could have taken hour or two. Instead, gas was off for NINE months. Con ed would not turn gas back on until they got into all 350 units and did who knows what. Just some food for thought.
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,485
    Btw, there is a reason that we never ever ever go into coops.
  • unclejohn
    unclejohn Member Posts: 1,757
    I found a old W/M gv boiler the ones that had the bypass valve not the two pump ones. I forget exactly how it was jamb in there but the bolts that held the igniter had broken off and some one used a 6 inch pipe nipple wedged against some thing in the boiler that held the igniter in place. I made my repair and left it as I found it. Years later I was talking about that job I saw and my friend oh yeah I remember that I did that. It was freezing out and the bolts snap off. What else could I do they had to have heat. And he said that was at least 5 years ago. It was that repair or a new boiler.
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,485
    Sometimes, you just do what you gotta do. Beer bottle being used to support a trap. Saw in local grocery
    Leonard
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,689

    Sometimes, you just do what you gotta do. Beer bottle being used to support a trap. Saw in local grocery

    Well it was Coors Light, liberal use of the word 'beer' right?
    steve
    icy78kcopp
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,178
    A good use of a light 'beer' maybe?
    icy78kcopp
  • info43
    info43 Member Posts: 51
    edited March 2020
    I bought a building in 1992. In 2013 Keyspan changed the pipes in the street. During the pressure test, this 'grease' gave way. I have no idea how long it was there but it did hold up at least 21 years. It took 15 minutes for the gas company to lock all the meters and the main line but took 3 weeks to get put back on. Good thing it was in the Summer.


    HVACNUT
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,330
    There was no active leak, just evidence of a previous leak which had been fixed using a questionable technique.
    The Super worked out a solution which met code and allowed the issue to be fixed without a building shutdown or expensive emergency repair.
    The Super did not tell the board because, well, some of the members would have freaked out and over reacted.
    I am thinking this might be a good time to drag the Super into the office and give him a raise. Sounds like a job well done!
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    HVACNUTChrisJ
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,506
    As someone who worked in the gas industry for many years I can tell you most of us if not all of us were trained to be very safety conscious. That being said we had a practice of "soaping" small leaks that were not leaking a lot of gas. That is the grease some who have posted here must be talking about. This was done so we could leave the customers gas on and not inconvenience them by shutting it off. They were advised to get there plumber in to repair it. We set the "soaped leak" orders aside and about a week or so later we would follow up to see if it was repaired. When these small leaks were soaped we would use liquid soap to test and make sure the leak was stopped. This "soaping" of leaks was only done on customer piping or low pressure utility piping never on high pressure gas.
    rick in Alaska
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,002
    @Tim McElwain

    I have herd of "Ivory Soap Flakes" to stop a leak in water piping. But that's internal

    What does the soap do make the pipe rust up where the leak is??
  • Intplm.
    Intplm. Member Posts: 1,376
    Seems the credibility of many are at stake here.
    Hopefully the accuser(s) will bare the same mulct, and dare I say shame as the accused if all is found in the accused favor.
    I have done many main change overs and shutdowns. Seems that the work done as described above have worked out well.
    I guess composed reasonable minds rule the day. ???
  • mikeg2015
    mikeg2015 Member Posts: 1,187
    > @Zman said:
    > There was no active leak, just evidence of a previous leak which had been fixed using a questionable technique.
    > The Super worked out a solution which met code and allowed the issue to be fixed without a building shutdown or expensive emergency repair.
    > The Super did not tell the board because, well, some of the members would have freaked out and over reacted.
    > I am thinking this might be a good time to drag the Super into the office and give him a raise. Sounds like a job well done!

    This is what I’m thinking. This his how I lost a job as a Facilities Engineer. I opened my
    mouth and was too honest about issues and status of projects and don’t manage information. The Director was a complete idiot but with tons of political clout.

    Damned if you do, not damned if you don’t. Ignorant people overact in fear about things they don’t understand.
    ZmanIntplm.
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,330
    @PennyS , I am curious how this one turned out?
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    Con ed would not turn gas back on until they got into all 350 units and did who knows what.


    I have a pretty good idea what they did in the 350 units.

    Some years ago, the gas company pulled out 60 to 70 year old leaky buried black gas pipe running at a nominal 15 psi (but actually 8 psi) and replacing it with bigger 50 psi plastic gas pipe. When they switched the system over to the new pipe, they turned off everyone's gas at the meter, switched over (took only a few minutes), but they had to go to each and every house to check and relight all pilot lights. Since I had only a spark-ignited gas boiler at the time, it was an easy job for them. They could see that nothing else was attached. But they wanted to be sure the regulator were able to handle the new higher pressure (reducing to 7 inches, IIRC). And relighting the pilot lights of those houses that had them.