Back-flow could contaminate water supply
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – Preventing back-flow from contaminating the water supply will have inspectors checking residential exterior cross-connection compliance, Department of Public Services Director Tom Murray said at a recent city council meeting.
Murray said Jan. 9 exterior residential cross-connections exist for sprinkler systems, pools and hot tubs, for which back pressure can allow water to flow back into the local water supply system.
“It can get people sick, anything chemically related,” Murray said.
He said commercial cross-connections have been inspected for the past 10 years, and the Department of Environmental Quality is requiring this year that all residential cross-connections be inspected.
“There is an ordinance that we have currently on the books, and it does not distinguish between commercial or residential, that if you are not in compliance after several attempts, you will have your water shut off,” Murray said.
Murray said employees of HydroCorp., of Troy, will look to see which residences have sprinkler systems, pools or exterior hot tubs, because the city has no records indicating where they have been installed. He said the visual survey will likely begin in the spring.
He said public notices will go out explaining what both the inspections and possible fixes entail.
“They will have to enter backyards if you have a pool,” Murray said. “Just like when we read a meter, we are allowed to walk right up to the side of your house. I can’t go in your house, but I can walk in your backyard or more typically look over the fence.”
Murray said the inspections are mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is enforced by the DEQ at the state level, and the DEQ enforces it upon every place that has at least 1,000 residents with a public water supply system.
He said if there is a water main break, back-flow prevention stops water that is inside a house from entering the public water supply system.
“If we had a water main break at this time, and we de-pressure the water main, and you have a problem with the valve that is outside with your sprinkler system, if you have fertilizer, it can get into the public supply system,” Murray said. “So this is for the protection of everyone.”
Murray said HyrdoCorp employees will wear an identification badge, and some will have HydroCorp vehicle signage. Information will be sent to residents before any inspectors are in the neighborhoods.
Murray said most cities require back-flow prevention devices when inspecting a property during the permitting process.
Murray said the initial inspection will look for back-flow prevention devices. Then it will be tested by a plumber to ensure it is operating effectively.
“Sprinklers are the biggest ‘hit list’ item,” Murray said. “With a pool you don’t have your hose sitting in it all winter long, all summer long. Your sprinkler is on, typically, every day, and it loses pressure every day when you turn it off.”
For more homeowner information about residential cross connection hazards and back-flow prevention, go to hydrocorpinc.com.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)