Why Doesn’t Massachusetts Recognize Plumbing Engineers?

When exactly was the last time a Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure (DPL) member had a drink of water? It must have been bottled, since they probably won’t want to drink it from a faucet. When was the last time one of them used and flushed the toilet? Why does this matter?

Years ago, the Massachusetts DPL discontinued official recognition of plumbing engineers, despite the fact that the DPL’s mission is “to protect the public health, safety, and welfare by licensing qualified individuals who provide services to consumers and by fair and consistent enforcement of the statutes and regulations of the boards of registration.”

Plumbing engineers play a vital role in protecting the public’s health, safety, and welfare as much as or more than other recognized engineering specialties, including civil and fire protection engineers. Plumbing engineers are responsible for designing water systems that provide clean, potable water, so when you turn on a faucet, you know you’ll be safe. They design systems that prevent polluted water from entering our water systems and our homes. They utilize technologies to keep children and the elderly from being scalded in their own baths. Plumbing engineers design piping systems that deliver life-saving medical gases to those undergoing surgery, as well as systems that safely transport toxic and sanitary wastes to disposal areas.

The field of plumbing engineering, as many other engineering fields, has incorporated many technical changes and advances over the past few years. Due to the environmental sustainability movement and concerns about water conservation, plumbing systems have become more than just pipes sticking out of walls. Plumbing engineers are responsible for designing these sophisticated systems. They are the professionals who oversee the construction process, ensuring that the proper design is incorporated and that the installation meets all code-mandated requirements.

Currently, Massachusetts recognizes the contractors, installers, and plumbers responsible for installing and building these systems, as well as the inspectors who ensure that they are safe. What the state does not do is provide the necessary recognition for the individuals who engineer and design plumbing systems.

To correct this egregious oversight, the Boston Chapter of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) has been actively pursuing the reinstatement of professional registration for plumbing engineering. Members of the chapter approached Massachusetts State Senator James Timilty, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, and asked him to help investigate this situation.

As a result of these efforts, Senator Timilty filed Senate Bill 181: An Act relative to plumbing engineers, which states, “Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the board of registration of professional engineers and land surveyors, established under section 45 of chapter 13, shall promulgate rules and regulations to establish and certify the registration of a class of engineer specifically trained in plumbing.”

Passage of this bill by both the Massachusetts House and Senate and subsequent signing into law by Governor Deval Patrick will act to direct the Board of Licensure to reinstate the Registered Plumbing Engineer designation within the Commonwealth.

The bill currently is being debated in committee. The recognition of plumbing engineering as a distinct discipline would allow plumbing engineers to take ownership of their designs and ensure the proper, successful installation of plumbing systems. It also would be a huge step toward the goal of professional registration of plumbing engineers nationwide.

The No. 1 priority of plumbing engineers is to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Recognizing the true value of this discipline is long past due and a travesty to the citizens of the state of Massachusetts.

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