Ten questions most commonly asked about Cross Connection Control

Is this just another bureaucracy requirement that's not necessary?

Thousands of people living in underdeveloped countries die daily from illnesses associated with unsafe drinking water. It is estimated that less than 50% of the population of underdeveloped countries have access to safe water supplies. In America, we all assume when we turn the tap on that we have safe drinking water. This is a luxury that is necessary, but not without very strong regulations and enormous expense for our public water systems. Our drinking water is among the safest in the world today. Water protection and conservation requires the effort and cooperation of everyone.

What is a cross-connection?

The term “cross-connection” shall mean any unprotected actual or potential connection or structural arrangement between a public or a consumer’s potable water system and any other source or system through which it is possible to introduce into any part of the potable system any used water, industrial fluid, gas or substance other than the intended potable water with which the system is supplied. Bypass arrangements, jumper connections, removable suctions, swivel or changeover devices, and other temporary or permanent devices through which, or because of which, backflow can occur from backsiphonage and or back-pressure, are considered to be cross-connections.

What is a backflow prevention assembly?

There are several types of backflow prevention assemblies. The type of backflow assembly used is determined by the degree of hazard. In short, the term “backflow prevention assembly” shall mean an assembly composed of two independently acting, approved check valves, including tightly closing resilient seated shutoff valves attached at each end of the assembly and fitted with properly located resilient seated test cocks. The term “approved backflow prevention assembly” shall mean an assembly that has been investigated and approved by the administrative authority having jurisdiction.

What is a cross-connection program and why have I never heard of such a requirement?

The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1986, and regulations of most states, state that the water purveyor has the primary responsibility of preventing water from unapproved sources, or any other substances, from entering the public potable water system. The health agency has the overall responsibility for preventing water from unapproved sources to enter either the potable water system within the water consumer’s premises or the public water supply directly.

How often does a backflow condition occur?

Thousands of backflow incidences occur daily, but are not detected or not reported. All it takes for a backflow condition to occur is a drop in line pressure such as fire fighting, main line breaking, high usage or back pressure.

How often does a backflow assembly fail to work properly?

Although a backflow prevention assembly is designed to prevent contamination of our potable water system, it is subject to failure. Foreign matter in the water supply system, such as sand, grit or rust particles from the piping system, can foul or damage internal parts of a backflow preventer. Normal wear and tear of the assembly will eventually cause the assembly to fail and need repair. Because the backflow assembly is subject to failure due to all of the above, it is required that they be tested on an annual basis.

Who is authorized to perform the annual test on backflow prevention assembles?

A backflow assembly tester (BAT) licensed and certified by the State Department of Health will be responsible for performing accurate field tests and for repairing or overhauling backflow prevention assemblies and making reports of such repair to the consumer and responsible authorities on forms approved by the administrative authority having jurisdiction.

The tester shall include the list of materials or replacement parts used. The tester shall be equipped with and capable of using all necessary tools, gauges, and other equipment necessary to properly test, repair, and maintain backflow prevention assemblies. It will be the tester’s further responsibility to insure that original manufactured replacement parts are used in the repair or replacement of parts in a backflow prevention assembly. It will be the tester’s further responsibility not to change the design, material or operational characteristics of an assembly during repair or maintenance without prior approval of the approving authority. A certified tester shall perform the work and be responsible for the accuracy of all tests and reports.

Why do I have to have my backflow preventer tested and maintained on an annual basis and my neighbor does not?

The consumer has the responsibility of preventing pollutants and contaminants from entering his or her potable water system(s) or the public potable water system. The consumer’s responsibility starts at the point of delivery from the public potable water system and includes all of his/her water systems. The consumer, at his/her own expense, shall install, test, and maintain approved backflow prevention assemblies as directed by the authority having jurisdiction. The consumer shall maintain accurate records of tests and repairs made of backflow prevention assemblies and provide the administrative authority having jurisdiction with copies of such records. The records shall be on forms approved by the administrative authority having jurisdiction and shall include the list of materials or replacement parts used. Following any repair, overhaul, re-piping, or relocation of an assembly, the consumer shall have it tested to insure that it is in good operating condition and will prevent backflow. Tests, maintenance, and repairs of backflow prevention assemblies shall be made by a certified backflow prevention assembly tester.

What happens if I do not have my backflow preventor(s) tested and maintained as required?

Bottom line, the consumer could be held responsible if his/her water system(s) contaminate the public water system. In a public facility, the owners could be held responsible if they have an unprotected cross-connection that results in illness or serious health effects to a customer.

What are some common examples of cross-connections that need to be protected with a backflow prevention assembly?

Residential: Lawn irrigation systems, Boilers, Garden hoses – A garden hose with all the uses and attachments that you can connect to a hose makes it a number one source for cross-connection to your potable water supply.

Commercial: Landscape irrigation, Boilers, Fire Service Protection, Film Processors, Post Mix Soda Machines – If carbonization enters into a copper tube plumbing system it reacts with copper and causes copper poison.

These are just a few of the cross-connections to our potable water systems.