The City of Duncan’s Code Enforcement department deals with a lot of things, from buildings not being up to code or built without permits to sanitation issues like sewer leaks and theft of utilities to yes, grass that is too long.
Christina Nowlin, plumbing inspector and code enforcement officer, spoke with the Noon Lions Club about her job and about the serious need for licensed plumbers.
Nowlin said while overgrown grass can be a big problem, usually her worries are what causes the grass to get overgrown in the first place because many times it is linked to a sewer problem.
“You can tell from the pictures I have, my main concern is mainly not grass,” she said. “We do get a lot of calls that are filtered through our office but they vary — stolen water is a big thing that I deal with, sewer spills are another. “
Nowlin said something she sees a lot is people taking the caps off of their sewer lines because of a blockage and then never returning the cap.
“They forget about it or they can’t afford a plumber, we do run into that in the low income areas — we try to work with some people but when it is just pure negligence we do address it,” she said.
When building new or repairing old there must be inspections before it is complete to help many problems in the future.
“Inspections are important because when it’s not done correctly a lot of damage can be done and it can be quite costly to fix,” Nowlin said.
Nowlin said grass clipping are a surprise for most people at the damage it can do to the sewer system.
“The grass gets washed down into the storm drains and (doesn’t flush) so we have to have those cleaned out but we don’t know they are backed up until whole neighborhoods are flooded,” she said.
Another drain blocker can be the small temporary signs that people leave.
“We have a lot of complaints about signage… and we are coming behind picking them up, that’s why — we call it ‘garage on a stick,’” Nowlin said. “It’s not because we are hateful or ugly, they get blown down by the wind, we don’t want to deal with the (potential) flooding. All the codes whether you are dealing with electrical, plumbing, mechanical — it doesn’t matter, it’s all about life safety.”
Something Nowlin brought up that wasn’t directly related to code enforcement but can be a factor for getting issues fixed properly is a state-wide shortage of licensed plumbers.
“Talking one day at a job fair and in the state of Oklahoma about four years ago there were 10,000 — electricians that’s your contractors and your journeymen, there were 5,000 heat and air contractors and journeymen … there were 2,500 licensed plumbing contractors in state,”
“That hurts and the reason is because you are looking at contamination, you are looking at improper repair, you are looking at handyman work that they may not know. We urge people to look for the licensed plumbers, you can even call down to the office and they can look it up for you.”
Nowlin said many northern states have unionized skilled workers so they collectively go into the schools to recruit students to those careers.
“That’s a promising career — everybody will always go to the grocery store thus they will always go to the restroom,” she said. “It’s a very supportive career, you can go anywhere with it, you can go into sales, you can go into new installation, you can go into repair — We don’t have that here and all too often you get (looks) and I’ve gotten that several times (for being a plumber).”