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                            We'd like to share some of the answers to questions we've been asked:

                                                   BACKFLOW BASICS 101:  Some Commonly Asked Questions

What is a cross-connection?
         Any permanent or temporary connection between the potable water and any other non-potable fluid or substance is a cross-connection.  A feed line to a cooling tower, a
          lawn sprinkler system or a hose dropped into a pesticide tank are some examples.

  • What is Backflow?
    Backflow is simply the reversal of the normal flow of the potable water.  It can be harmful or deadly if chemicals or bacteria are back-siphoned or back-pressured into the potable water through a cross-connection with a non-potable source.

  • What is Cross-Connection Control and Backflow all about? 
    Water is ordinarily distributed in one direction: from the water supplier to the consumer. However, it is possible, and not all that uncommon for this to be changed by various hydraulic conditions. The flow of water may be effectively reversed, flowing from the consumer to the water supplier. This is called Backflow . The water supplier is then faced with the problem of having water introduced into the potable water distribution system from a source it cannot control: the consumer. If this consumer happens to have non-potable substances (those not suitable for human consumption) on the premises, these substances could find their way into the customer's water pipes when backflow occurs. These substances could, in turn, get in to the water distribution system.  This causes contamination or pollution of the water distribution system.

    The physical connections between drinking water pipes and substances which are not meant for consumption are called cross-connections. To control these cross-connections and prevent backflow, a Backflow Preventer must be installed at the point of the cross-connection. These backflow preventers must be tested or inspected upon installation to assure they are operating properly. Additionally, they must be tested or inspected annually to determine their continued capability to prevent backflow. 

  • Does Backflow occur often?
    Backflow is a constant possibility in virtually any plumbing system, and cannot generally be engineered out of a system without the installation and maintenance of appropriate backflow devices or measures.  Backflow incidents most often are caused when water pressure is lost temporarily, which allows back-siphonage to occur.  

  • Are Backflow incidents dangerous?
    Backflow incidents across the country often lead to property damage, injuries and even death. In the worst backflow incident on record, over 1500 persons became ill and 98 persons died. Trade journals and magazines reveal new cases every month.  

    Who Needs One? 

    Installation of an approved backflow prevention assembly is required at the service connection to any premise where there is an auxiliary supply or system - even if there is no connection or cross-connection. For example, anyone with an alternate source of water such as a well, spring, stream, etc., or anyone with an irrigation system, or two or more meters serving one parcel must have a backflow prevention device. Commercial and professional buildings with fire sprinklers, lab equipment, boilers, etc, are further examples of premises that require a backflow prevention device.

    Each Municipality in each State, has Rules and Regulations governing backflow protection requirements. Most require the owner of any premises on which protective devices are installed to have certified annual inspections made of such devices for their water tightness and reliability. The device shall be serviced, overhauled, or replaced whenever found to be defective. Certified records of such inspections and/or repairs are required to be submitted to their respective Districts. You may engage any Backflow Prevention Tester who is USC and AWWA certified to perform the test. 

  • Is my company liable for backflow incidents?
    Property owners who fail to maintain their plumbing systems up to code, or fail to install backflow assemblies where needed or to test these assemblies annually are generally liable for backflow incidents on site, regardless of the actual cause of the incident.  Landlords who do not adequately monitor the activities of tenants on site are generally responsible for damages or injuries to other tenants.

  • What is the impact of the Backflow Codes?
    Water purveyors have started cross-connection control programs, and must mandate the installation and annual testing of backflow devices at the user's meter for system protection, wherever an actual or a potential backflow hazard exists on site.

  • What are my on-site backflow assemblies for?
    On-site assemblies are devices installed in your facilities at the point of cross connection to prevent on-site backflow occurrences. It is these devices that actually provide protection to your staff and/or customers, rather than the assemblies at the meter, which protect the city main lines.  The plumbing code requires that on site assemblies be tested annually also.

  • Why do I need to test my backflow assemblies?
    The state regulations and/or the Uniform Plumbing Code require testing all assemblies annually.  But regulations aside, keeping all of your assemblies in good condition not only reduces your legal liability exposure, it also lowers your actual maintenance costs as well.  It's smart to catch problems while they're minor, rather than wait until an emergency arises, such as when a device starts to dump hundreds of gallons of water per minute out it's relief valve into an office or room.  Annually testing your devices is the only way to guarantee that all internal components of your device are working. 

    Potential Hazards of not having a Backflow Prevention Device.
    Contamination or pollution of a water system is usually brought about by a cross-connection to any systems containing auxiliary water supplies which may be polluted or contaminated; irrigation systems which may be  polluted or contaminated with fertilizers, pesticides or other objectionable materials. Thus, using a hose-attached sprayer for application of pesticides, solvents, cleaning products, etc; flushing a car's cooling system with a garden hose; or filling a swimming pool can all create situations where
    cross-connection can occur. Without proper protection, devices as useful as your garden hose have the potential to poison your home's water supply. In fact, over half of the nation's cross-connections involve unprotected garden hoses! 

The cost of a backflow prevention device for residential protection can be anywhere from $100-$200.00 dollars plus the cost of having a licensed plumber install it.
          Backflow devices for other applications may be substantially more expensive. Commercial - thousands of dollars

   •  Cross-Connection Control Terms
    A back-siphonage condition can occur whenever there is a lowered pressure between the potable and non-potable supply piping. Such conditions typically occur during
     periods of high demand in the public water main, lowering the supply pressure. For instance during the demands imposed by fire fighting operations, or in the event of a
     water main break, which suddenly and significantly lowers the city water pressure below that of the non-potable system. This results in a partial vacuum being drawn on the
     non-potable system, and siphons the pollutants or contaminants into the potable water system through an unprotected cross connection, such as a hose bib or hydronic
     system make-up connection. Back-siphonage may also occur      when a high velocity stream of water passes by a small pipe outlet, such as a residential service tap, due
     to the "venturi" effect.

    A back-pressure condition occurs whenever an elevated pressure exists between the potable and non-potable source. These pressures can be imposed by the installation of
     pumps which increase pressures above the city water supply pressure, thereby forcing non-potable water in the opposite direction of normal flow into the potable water line.
     The installation of boilers or other equipment which heat water, causing thermal expansion and resulting in pressures in excess of the incoming water pressure, 
     also can force non-potable water into the potable piping system.

    A "pollutant" is any substance which may affect the color, taste or odor of the potable water, but which does not pose a direct threat to human health through exposure or
     consumption of the water. Pollutants may impose an objectionable odor or appearance to the water, but do not in themselves pose a health threat, and therefore, are
     considered to be a lesser hazard, When compared to contaminants. 

    A "contaminant" is any substance which, when introduced into the potable water system, constitutes a direct threat to life or health of a human, if the substance was
      ingested through consumption, or if the substance came in contact with the skin. A contaminant can therefore be a caustic chemical, a fluid containing bacteria or disease,
      or any other substance which could
threaten human health. Therefore, contaminants compose the highest degree of hazard to the potable water system.

                                                  For general information, or for an examination of your company's requirements, 

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