What are cross connections and backflow?
A cross-connection is any connection between a drinking water supply system and any source of non-potable or non-drinkable liquid, solid, or gas. Under certain circumstances of unequal pressure, a non-drinkable substance could either be pulled or pushed into the drinking water supply. This is called backflow.
Backflow can reverse the flow of water or other substances into the a drinking water system, resulting in chemicals or contaminants getting into the drinking water. Water can flow in the opposite direction from what is intended due to changes in pressure. This is why the installation, inspection, and proper maintenance of backflow prevention devices is imperative to the safety of drinking water.
What is a backflow preventer?
A backflow preventer is a means or mechanism to prevent backflow. The typical mechanism for preventing backflow is a mechanical backflow preventer, which provides a physical barrier to backflow. Another method of preventing backflow is an air gap, which either eliminates a cross-connection or provides a barrier to backflow.
Why does the Town of La Veta Water Department need to control cross-connections and protect the water system against backflow?
Backflow into a public water system can pollute or contaminate the water in the system causing it to be unsafe to drink. The Town of La Veta Water Department has a responsibility to provide water that is usable and safe to drink under all foreseeable circumstances. Furthermore, citizens must have confidence that water delivered to them through our water system is always safe to drink. For these reasons, the Town of La Veta Water Department must take all reasonable precautions to protect its water system against backflow.
What should the Town of La Veta Water Department do to control cross-connections and protect the public water system against backflow?
Municipal water suppliers like the Town of La Veta Water Department are required by the State of Colorado to ensure that a proper backflow preventer is installed and maintained at the water service connection to each business or residence that poses a significant hazard to the our water system. Generally, backflow preventers are required in the following situations:
- Water connections to a dedicated fire protection system
- Water connections to an irrigation system
- Water connections to a business or residence with an auxiliary or reclaimed water system
- Water connections that are split to serve multiple residences or commercial properties
- Water connections to a commercial or industrial facility where objectionable substances are handled in a way that could cause pollution or contamination of the public water system
What does the Town of La Veta Water Department require from property owners with a cross-connection?
The Town of La Veta Water Department is required by the State of Colorado to monitor all cross-connections in our service area. Cross-connections must be controlled by the property owner, however the Town of La Veta must maintain records of the location of each cross-connection and the annual inspections that demonstrate they are effectively preventing backflow incidents. The Town of La Veta Water Department requires that:
- Building permits for new construction projects must meet the requirement to control potential cross connections with a backflow prevention device or method.
- Commercial re-development permits also require the new business to be surveyed by the Town of La Veta Water Department to determine if there is a cross-connection. If a cross-connection is present, it must be controlled with a backflow prevention device or method.
- Properties with an existing cross-connection must be controlled with a backflow prevention device or method. The device must be inspected after installation by a Certified Backflow Assembly Tester. The Tester must provide the results of the inspection to the the Town of La Veta Water Department, not the property owner.
- If the inspection determines that the backflow prevention device is not working correctly (i.e. a failed test) then the property owner has 30 days to correct the problem. The certified tester must provide an second report showing the device passed the inspection.
- Failure to control a cross-connection or to conduct annual inspections will result in the water being shut off to the property.
Why do backflow preventers have to be tested periodically?
Mechanical backflow preventers have internal seals, springs, and moving parts that are subject to fouling, wear, or fatigue. Also, mechanical backflow preventers and air gaps can be bypassed. Therefore, all backflow preventers have to be tested periodically to ensure that they are functioning properly. A visual check of air gaps is sufficient, but mechanical backflow preventers have to be tested with properly calibrated gauge equipment. Backflow prevention device, it must be tested by a Certified Backflow Assembly Tester.
How do I select a Certified Backflow Assembly Tester?
If you have a Backflow prevention device you will need to hire a Certified Backflow Assembly Tester when it is installed and then annually to determine if the device is working properly and if necessary, to be repaired. Backflow Assembly Testers can be certified by either one of the following professional associations:
- The American Backflow Prevention Association is an organization whose members have a common interest in protecting drinking water from contamination through cross-connections. They maintain a list of their members who are certified Backflow Assembly Testers by state available here.
- American Society of Sanitary Engineering (ASSE) is a membership organization and leading product and personnel certification agency for companies and individuals representing all disciplines of the plumbing and mechanical industries. Their mission is to promote public awareness about the importance of safe and correct plumbing and mechanical systems, and improve the performance and safety of these systems. They maintain a list of their members who are certified Backflow Assembly Testers (category 5110) by state available here.
In addition to these resources, more information is available from the Backflow Prevention Education Council of Colorado (BPECC). This organization is comprised of professionals dedicated to
protecting the potable water supply through backflow prevention and cross-connection control. They also maintain a list of Backflow Assembly Testers available here.
Key questions to ask when selecting a Certified Backflow Assembly Tester
There are a few steps to select a tester or testing company. Ask all the questions you feel necessary to be confident that you are hiring a competent tester that will keep you in compliance with the Town of La Veta Water Department requirements. Testers should be happy to explain the use of back flow prevention assemblies, their function, and how they protect the quality of the drinking water. Here are a few suggested questions you should ask the tester or company before you hire them to test your assemblies.
- Are their certifications current? The Colorado Primary Drinking Water Regulations require that the tester be currently certified by: ABPA (American Backflow Prevention Association) or ASSE (American Society of Sanitary Engineering)
- How long has the company been in business? How many years experience does the tester have?
- Can the company provide references?
- Is the company or tester registered with the Colorado Division of Fire Safety? If the test is to be done on a fire suppression system, the tester or company must be registered with the Colorado Division of Fire Safety. This only applies to back flow prevention assemblies on fire suppression systems.
- Does the company have liability and Workers Compensation Insurance? Liability insurance protects you from any damages caused by the tester. Without it you would be forced to sue the tester who may have limited assets. Workers Compensation insurance protects you from liability for injuries incurred by the tester.
- How soon will the utility receive the test report from the tester? The Town of La Veta Water Department has annual deadlines for submittal of back flow tests. You could get past due notification and ultimately a water shut off if the Town of La Veta Water Department does not receive the report on time.
- What is the cost for the test?
- Are discounts offered for multiple tests if you have more than one back flow prevention assembly?
- Are there additional costs such as trip charges, gasoline surcharges, mileage charges
- What is the cost for repairs if needed?
- Are there multiple trip charges incurred if they need to leave to get parts?