EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 14, 2014

Plumbers flush with pride

World Plumbing Day puts spotlight on trade's importance to public health

By Thomas Shamma
tshamma@eagletribune.com

---- — WATERTOWN – In case you missed it, Tuesday was World Plumbing Day.

But, in Massachusetts the plumbing community has been celebrating all week with a campaign called “Looking Forward, Giving Back,” to raise funds to support The Plumbing Museum in Watertown.

Yes, there is a museum dedicated to plumbing, and those who support it, see it as a tribute to a trade that has contributed to the betterment society.

“What makes plumbing so important is the idea of sanitation,” said Tom Palange, director of marketing for the J.C. Cannistraro plumbing which sponsors the museum. “We take it for granted. There’s a phrase plumbers live by, kind of a creed if you will, ‘The plumber protects the health of the nation.’”

Four out of every 10 people in the world - 2.6 billion - don’t have sanitary facilities. “If you have good plumbing in your part of the world,” said Palange. “You’re in luck. You’re more likely to be in good health.”

“I think every day should be world plumbing day,” said Tim Fandel, a plumber in the Greater Boston area. “I think it brings needed attention to plumbing and the things we take for granted every day. Being able to turn the water on, and have water come out the tap, and the varied uses of water in irrigation, crops, all that stuff. You know, it’s stuff that we don’t even think about. But it’s important, so important, to everyday life.

“We’re very fortunate in Massachusetts,” said Fandel. “(In) other parts of the country, water, water distribution and water purity are more and more becoming issues. I think you’re starting to see people realize that water is a finite resource, and just how important it is.”

The website dedicated to World Plumbing Day says, “The aftermath of 2010’s devastating earthquake in Haiti and the 2011 tsunami in Japan reveals how easy it is to take for granted the availability of safe drinking water and sufficient sanitation systems — until those systems cease to function properly. History shows that great leaps in humankind’s advancement — both physically and socially — have been tied to advances in plumbing technology.

“The safety and abundance of drinking water is, of course, a concern for most people all over the world, but what is not often emphasized is the work the plumbing industry contributes every day to alleviate these concerns. We would like your help in bringing a better understanding of the largely misunderstood role plumbers play in keeping folks safe and healthy each and every day.”

Fandel said that water conservation is becoming a much more conscious part of planning and construction, “We’re seeing water reuse systems, especially in large water users, public buildings. In our training, journeyman training, we teach a whole curriculum on water reuse and thermal, solar, pretty advanced water systems that you’re seeing now, that use a tremendously reduced amount of water, just for those purposes. Conservation is playing a key role even in areas where they have pretty good systems.”

“I’d say most people, I think they realize how important plumbing is,” said Nick Wormald, a plumber from Haverhill. “That’s why they call somebody, rather than trying to do it themselves. We’re dealing with dirty pipes, you know? And live water, which can cause a huge amount of damage, so if something’s not done right, if something bursts or something is leaking all the time -- it’s going make a lot of damage throughout your home.”

“The really significant thing,” said Hugh Kelleher, the executive director at the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of Greater Boston, “is that the advances in plumbing correlate very directly to advances in public health.

“When you look around the world, what you see is that those areas that do not have good potable water systems, and good sanitation systems, those are the ones that have by far the highest disease and mortality rates,’’ Kelleher said.

The Plumbing Museum was first opened in 1979 in Worcester, but moved to 80 Rosedale Road, Watertown in 2008.

It is free to the public by appointment. For more information go to www.theplumbingmuseum.org.