Clean slate. Starting in 2015, New York City has required buildings to file a report on the annual cleaning of their domestic water tanks with the Department of Health (DOH) by Jan. 15. Those that don’t file a report on time face a fine of $250, with a long list of additional fines if they fail to clean their tanks properly and keep adequate records of inspections. Now there’s a tool to help boards and managing agents stay up-to-date on their annual inspections.
Green light, red light. American Pipe & Tank, a Long Island City company that cleans and repairs water tanks, recently introduced an interactive map on its website (https://map.americanpipeandtank.com) that shows every drinking-water tank in the city. Type in your building address or click the dot representing your building, and a box pops up showing the date of your most recent inspection. The results are color-coded, including a dot next to the building’s address: Green means your annual inspection is current, yellow indicates your tank cleaning has not been filed for the current year, and red indicates you are past due.
“We figured it would be easiest for people if we used a traffic light, if you will, to show the results,” says Jason Silver, the vice president of operations. “It’s a way for people to immediately understand where they stand.”
Data mining. The information is drawn from data compiled by the DOH, which set up an automated system in 2020 that keeps track of all drinking-water tank cleanings filed with the city and updates the information weekly. “We decided to take advantage of something that already exists,” says Silver, who hired a software developer with experience working with government agencies to create the map. “There are companies and platforms out there, like SiteCompli and Jack Jaffa, that do a great job tracking Department of Buildings and Fire Department of New York violations, but no one was tracking domestic drinking-water tank inspections and penalties.”
Warning sign. Buildings that aren’t up to code need to correct the problem quickly. “Once the DOH identifies you as one of the buildings that didn’t perform the prior year’s tank cleaning, you’re on their radar,” Silver says. And there is a long list of related violations, including failure to test water for E. coli and other bacteria, having the tank painted by an “unqualified person or entity” ($500 each), failing to maintain records of inspections for one of the preceding five years or failing to provide test results within five days after the DOH requests them ($250). “If you’re red-flagged by the city — or red-dotted on our map — you could be in trouble,” he adds.
Boards also need to make sure their cleaning vendor follows through and promptly files a report with the DOH. “It used to be that the building super or the managing agent could file the report,” Silver says, “but now the city requires that the vendor has to do it. If they forget, it’s as if the inspection was never done, and you’re still subject to fines.”
Access for all. If your building hasn’t yet filed a report this year, boards can elect to have a free reminder sent to them 45 days before the due date. “For management companies that manage dozens, if not hundreds, of buildings and 300 or 400 water tanks across their portfolio, it’s easy for one to slip through the cracks,” says Silver. “This is a useful tool.”