Have you ever stopped and questioned the quality of water you’re getting from your tap? Well, probably not, and there is a good reason behind it. The US has one of the safest and most reliable potable water systems in the world.
Keeping potable water clean and contaminant-free is a continuous battle fought by the public water supply system. Seemingly trivial activities like installing a backflow preventer in private properties and conducting annual backflow inspections contribute to ensuring water safety.
Today, you will find out more about backflow testing and its importance.
Let’s get started:
Famous backflow incidences
When backflow occurs on a small residential scale, such as contaminated water seeping from the lawn’s irrigation system into the general supply, it may go undetected and unreported in the news. But that does not mean that it doesn’t happen.
Over the years, there have been much larger backflow incidents, with advisories affecting thousands of people. In 2016, there was the much-publicized Corpus Christ incident in Texas.
A backflow accident at industrial property caused between three to 24 gallons of an asphalt emulsifier to be injected into the city’s water system. In high concentrations, the dangerous chemical posed a risk of serious skin burns.
City officials imposed a city-wide ban on water use for any purpose, including cleaning. The water could not be made safer by boiling it. Hundreds of city residents had to use bottled water.
What is a backflow device?
Clean water should ideally flow in one direction and in a closed loop with no outside contaminants. The singular flow is the only way to ensure that you’re getting clean water from the city. Now, if water flows in the opposite direction into the system rather than out, there is a problem. And that problem is referred to as backflow.
Contaminated water or chemicals can enter into a clean water supply through back-siphonage or backpressure.
Back siphonage results from negative pressure inside the water supply pipe. As a result, used, contaminated, or polluted water is sucked into the potable water supply.
Certain incidents can increase the risk of backflow, including:
- Main water break.
- Extended power outages.
- Appliance instigated pressure differences.
- Plumbing overhauls.
- Nearby firefighting.
The issue of back-siphonage tends to affect lawn irrigation systems because of standing water. Now, many people use lawn fertilizers that may be hazardous once they enter the water supply. It’s therefore highly recommended, and at times, a legal requirement to install a backflow preventer device to prevent water pollution from private properties.
Problems caused by backflow
The seriousness of backflow can be determined by the potential health issues that germs and chemicals entering into the potable water supply can cause. Various health issues cited by the EPA related to consuming contaminated water include:
- Reproductive problems.
- Neurological disorders.
- Gastrointestinal illnesses.
- Increased risk of illnesses for persons with weakened immune systems, infants, young children, pregnant women, and the elderly.
Some of the contaminants that can enter into the water supply as a result of backflow include fertilizers, pesticides, raw sewage, dirt, and naturally occurring minerals.
Is backflow testing a legal requirement?
It may be a legal requirement to conduct annual backflow testing, depending on where you live. You may need to check the laws in your area.
State and city codes may specify the approved backflow assembly and installation requirements. That’s why it may be necessary to hire a qualified 24-hour plumber in los angeles to install the device.
What’s involved during backflow testing?
There are different types of backflow preventers that may be installed in a residential or commercial facility. The most approved types include the Double Check Valve type, Reduced Pressure Zone (RPZ) types, and Atmospheric Vacuum Breakers.
Backflow preventers are typically built to be quite reliable and last for a long time. Some units can even last for up to 35 years, with careful maintenance. For instance, an RPZ assembly may require annual inspection and rebuilding after every five years.
Backflow testers undergo special training and certification. The training involves classroom learning and hands-on training. The tester also receives training on how to test the backflow assemblies to determine that they are working as expected. They can troubleshoot issues with internal components such as valves, springs, rubber seals, etc.
So, a typical inspection often entails ensuring that all the valves are working and checking for any other issues that may cause the backflow assembly to fail.
Other cases where it’s important to get a backflow water inspection
In addition to an annual inspection, there are some signs that may indicate the need for a backflow inspection, including:
- Presence of sediments in the water.
- Smelly water.
- Brown or yellow water.
- Bad water taste.
You should always get help from a trusted plumber to resolve backflow water issues and an annual backflow inspection.