Why are backflow preventers necessary?
The systems which distribute municipal water supplies are designed with the intention that water flows in one direction only. However, abnormal conditions can occur in water systems that cause water to flow in the opposite direction from that which was intended. This condition is called backflow, and it can result in the contamination of water supplies in unprotected systems.
Backflow prevention devices ensures safe drinking water flows from every tap in the United States. The Safe Drinking Water Act was passed by Congress in 1974. The act allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to establish national health-based standards for drinking water that protect against both naturally occurring and man made contaminants. This included installation of backflow preventers.
What if my backflow preventer stops working?
If your backflow preventer stops working or malfunctions, it’s possible for a cross-connection to exists that allows man-made contaminants to enter the public water supply. These contaminants can cause serious illness or even death. You’re responsible for the water system from the outlet of the water meter or service connection on your property, and if anything fails on your side of the meter, you could be held liable.
How do contaminants enter the water supply?
Contaminants can enter the water supply when a failed cross-connection allows water or another liquid, gas, or even a solid to enter the public water supply. For example, if a pipe in your outdoor irrigation system cracked, and your backflow preventer was broken or not present, then dirt, microbes, insects, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizer could enter the public water supply.
There are two ways for contaminants in a private water system to enter the public water supply: backpressure and backsiphonage.
What is backpressure?
Backpressure is a condition that occurs when the water pressure within your plumbing system exceeds that of the public water supply. Backpressure can be caused by a difference in elevation, a pump, a steam boiler, or by other means.
What is backsiphonage?
Backsiphonage often occurs when there is a sudden drop of pressure in the public water main that supplies water to a house. This can happen if a water main breaks, if a fire hydrant is turned on, or for other reasons.
Where can cross-contamination occur?
Cross-connected plumbing can happen any where you have plumbing. These include wash basins and service sinks, lawn irrigation and sprinkler systems, medical and industrial laboratory equipment, processing tanks, industrial fluid systems and compressors, boilers, water re-circulating systems, cooling towers and chillers, swimming pools, solar heat systems, fire sprinkler systems, stand pipe systems, auxiliary water suppliers, and water conditioners.
What is the simplest way to prevent backflow?
The simplest and most effective backflow prevention technique is the air gap. An air gap is simply a space of air between any device that opens into the plumbing, such as a faucet, and any place where water can collect.
What is an example of an air gap?
One example of an air gap is the space between the rim of a sink and the outlet of the faucet. Even with the sink full of water, there is no way that water could be pulled back up through the faucet if pressure were lost.
What happens when pressure is lost?
The loss of pressure on the public side of your water meter or water connection is the most common type of backflow. This is called backsiphonage.
What makes an air gap valuable?
Imagine if the air gap was eliminated by attaching a hose to the sink faucet and lowering the hose into the sink. In the event that the water pressure reversed, the water in the sink would be siphoned back through the hose and faucet and into the domestic water supply. If the sink in this example is replaced with a toilet tank or a garden hose whose end is in a puddle of groundwater, the importance of backflow prevention is very apparent.
Are air gaps the only type of backflow preventers?
There are many different types of backflow devices on the market. AAA Backflow Prevention Services can help you choose the best one for your water system. Please call us or email us any time for your free backflow installation bid.
Who can repair or replace backflow preventers?
Backflow preventers are classified as a “plumbing appurtenance” and can only be legally disassembled, maintained and repaired by a licensed Master Plumber. In addition, the plumber must complete additional training to repair, maintain, and replace water preventers, and must be currently certified by a recognized authority. AAA Prevention Services is certified by the American Water Works Association.