Businesses throughout Saugerties must install a plumbing device to prevent backflow in the water supply, according to Mike Hopf, the village water superintendent.
The device has been required since 2005, though many businesses have not complied. The most recent letter sent out by the water department asked businesses to submit certification that their devices were operating properly or face possible fines. Hopf said the businesses had been notified in previous letters over the years, though this is the first time penalties have been threatened. He said the department will waive the 30-day requirement if a business shows it’s making an effort to comply.
Over 200 businesses in the village and town water districts will eventually be affected. The types of businesses include any place with a direct water connection to a piece of equipment, like a boiler. That means restaurants and coffee shops, apartment complexes, auto repair shops, funeral homes and many others. Small retail shops with a single WC, like those that line Partition and Main streets, aren’t included.
The devices prevent contaminants from entering the water system when the pressure drops, which can happen during a water main break or when firemen hook into a hydrant.
Hopf said he has received a favorable response, for the most part. One exception was a business owner on Rt. 212 who told him he’d “rip the boiler out” rather than buy a backflow device (which cost around $700–$1,000 apiece). A manager of a senior housing complex said he didn’t have the money to do it now.
According to Hopf, the first letters went out to businesses in 2005, with a second round in 2007.
Mike Flanigan, who owns Flanigan’s Cleaners on Main St., understands the need but wishes the village gave businesses more time before getting serious about enforcement.
“The village has been sitting on this a couple of years and now they were giving us 30 days to comply,” he said.
“These things are not cheap,” added Flanigan, who closed up shop for a week during the installation. For the dry cleaner, he had to install one on a one-inch water line at a cost of $800 and change, and the other on a ¾-inch line for $700 and change, for a total—with labor—of about $2,000.
“In this economy not everyone has that kind of money,” Flanigan said.
The law also requires an annual inspection by a certified professional, which runs about $50–$100.
The requirement is federal. New York State’s Health Department is tasked with making sure the individual towns and villages comply. Hopf said business owners should understand the devices really are essential for safety. He cited a problem in Kingston several years ago caused by backflow that forced the city to issue a three-day notice to boil all water, testing the water constantly to make sure it was safe.