Ingham County Health Care permit responsibility of contractor or East Lansing


Sarah Lehr, writing for the Lansing State Journal, “Permit Problem Stalls Nursing Home Construction” quotes Mark Stevens, Facility Administrator, at the Ingham County Medical Care Facility, when commenting on the cost of replacing newly installed medical gas piping, as saying the contractor would not have preceeded [sic] with the improper permits if they had not been given the green lights [sic] by East Lansing. They reached out to East Lansing with [sic] guidance before going forward,” Stevens Said. “That’s one of the main reasons you go through the permitting process, to make sure everything is being done according to standard.”

This is a faulty statement by the administrator that misleads the reader into assuming the responsibility for the $325,000.00 replacement should be shared equally between the parties. In other words, they all are at fault.

The truth is the mechanical contractor should not have been performing plumbing work without a license and should have known better. According to the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth, Bureau of Construction Codes publication, Technical Bulletin Publication Number 53 Issued: October 29, 2008 MEDICAL GAS PIPING INSTALLATIONS states in part……

       “Issue: What individuals have the responsibility for obtaining permits, providing supervision, making installations, conducting                            inspections, and conducting verifications for medical gas piping systems in accordance with State of Michigan requirements?”

         Section 9 identifies and includes medical gas systems within the scope of plumbing addressed by Act 733.

        Section 15 states:

  •  “A person shall not engage in or work at the business of a plumbing contractor, master plumber, journey plumber, or apprentice    plumber unless licensed or registered by the department.”

In this case the contractor installing the medical gas piping was a licensed mechanical contractor and had mechanical building permit but was not a licensed plumbing contractor as they should have been.

In the Dobie Road Medical Care project mentioned in the Lansing State Journal article, neither the contractor or subcontractor performing the work were licensed plumbing contractors and their employees doing the work were not licensed plumbers.  It is the contractor’s responsibility to know the limits of their licensing (mechanical code as opposed to the plumbing code). The Technical Bulletin Publication Number 53 Issued: October 29, 2008:  MEDICAL GAS PIPING INSTALLATIONS makes it very clear that only licensed plumbers can install medical gas piping.

Should the City of East Lansing building inspector have known the mechanics working on the gas piping were not licensed plumbers? I have worked as an architectural inspector, and I don’t ever recall the building inspector checking licenses. To all outward appearances medical gas piping installed by a mechanical contractor and medical gas piping installed by a licensed plumber look the same. I don’t know if the City of East Lansing had a plumbing inspector as opposed to only a building inspector on the project.

About East Lansing paying for the replacement of the piping it should be noted, while there has been some weakening of this in Michigan, generally a municipality, (City of East Lansing and Meridian Township in this case) do not have to suffer the consequences of its errors and oversights in plan review. issuing building permits or making inspections (see NAPOLEAN TOWNSHIP v MICHAEL O. NEVINS and DIANE L. NEVINS No. 273870 Jackson Circuit Court, LC No. 06-001935-CZ).

The installation of the medical gas piping wouldn’t be materially different whether installed by a pipefitter or a licensed plumber, except for the standard of care expected of a licensed plumber. From this perspective, the East Lansing inspector wouldn’t have noticed anything suspicious about the medical gas piping, but, the inspector was tipped off by a third party to check the license status of the contractor installing the medical gas piping.

The county/township has been given the option of having the piping inspected by a licensed plumber and certified in situ which would probably cost less than $1,000.00; or remove the entire installation and replace it with licensed plumbers at a cost of $325,000.00 and a six months delay in opening. If a plumbing contractor would be willing for a fee to inspect and certify the installation as is and the plumbing inspector would accept this as due diligence on their part and stamp the installation accepted, the present installation should be certified by licensed plumbers and left as is.


Paul J. Potts is a writer of articles covering legal and materials issues in the design and construction industry published in the Construction Specifier Magazine, on the American Institute of Architect’s KnowledgeNet website and in Masonry Magazine and Construction Canada Magazines.