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Surprise! Law Finally Mandates Emergency Drinking Water

Jennifer V. Hughes in Legal/Financial on March 18, 2014

New York City

Illustration by Jane Sanders (detail of larger piece)
March 18, 2014

"It is a big change for existing buildings," says Russell Unger, executive director of the Urban Green Council. "We felt that it was important to give buildings a long timeline for compliance."

Station Break

Local Law 110 requires buildings including cooperatives and condominiums to install the drinking water station by creating a separate draw off the main water line, says Unger. The law also requires a floor drain. David Talalovsky, vice president of Smart Plumbing and Heating, says the cost to install the emergency water stations will vary widely based on the location of the main. Need to break up a lot of concrete to install a drain? That will cost more. "If you're talking about a situation where the main is close to where you want to put it, you could be looking at as little as $1,500," Talalovsky says.

Many condos and co-ops could already be in compliance with the law if they have, say, a slop sink in a laundry area on each of the first few floors, says Dennis DePaola, executive vice president of Orsid Realty, a management firm. The law requires only enough water spigots to account for the one-for-every-100-residents rule.

"We think the majority of buildings already comply with this," says Angela Pinsky, senior vice president for management services at the Real Estate Board of New York.

Flights of Fancy

So does that mean residents on the 20th floor would have to walk down 20 flights of stairs to a spigot, fill up a bucket, and take it back upstairs to flush a toilet? Unger says the law is designed to assist in an emergency, and emergencies are not always easy. "Everyone is going to be in great shape at the end of a blackout," he jokes.

All kidding aside, Unger says that while a match for Sandy will probably not be seen soon, the region has a history of other power-related problems. "If you look at the area since the mid-1960s, we've had four major blackouts that were multi-day affairs," he says. "If you were on an upper floor, you had one flush and no drinking water." 

Another plumbing-related regulation is Local Law 79, which deals with toilets and sinks that operate electrically (the ones with motion sensors). With those types of fixtures, the law requires that one toilet and one sink in each bathroom have either a manual switch that allows them to operate without power or a battery backup that lasts two weeks.

"This does not affect a lot of apartments," because they rarely have plumbing with motion sensors, says Leon Geoxavier, an architect and project manager for Walker Restoration Consultants. "It's more of an issue for communal spaces like an office room or a gym."


Illustration by Jane Sanders

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