Why Cross-Connection Control and Backflow Prevention?

“The best protection for public health is prevention, not cleanup.” – John McNabb

A popular discussion we have with potential and current customers is why have a cross-connection control program? Is there a significance to having one? What legislation supports having a program? We hope to answer a few of those questions below.

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974, established national standards for safe drinking water. While there is not a specific regulation listed in the SDWA for cross-connection control programs, the act identifies how cross-connections and backflow could affect water quality within water systems.

In response, the EPA released a Cross-Connection Control Manual in 2003 to help water purveyors administer an effective program. The manual establishes guidelines, policies, templates, and suggestions for running a comprehensive cross-connection control program.

Depending on state and local statutes, different regulations or codes may affect your program. In Illinois for example, Title 35 of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s (IEPA) Administrative Code requires all public water suppliers to have a cross-connection control program. Programs must contain notification, tracking, biennial residential surveys, and commercial inspections every five years.

Why are these rules, regulations and mandates in place? While numerous case studies of backflow incidents exist across the country, many go unreported. Below are a few accounts of backflow incidents across the county from recent history:

  • In 1990, at least two individuals became ill after an unknown quantity of industrial chemicals backflowed into the public water supply from a New Mexico facility that transforms wheat and barley into ethanol. The backflow went through an unprotected auxiliary line illegally tapped to a hose connected to the plant’s flushing system.
  • In 1997, recycled water reached approximately 1,600 California homes and businesses from a residential connection after a property owner illegally tapped into a reclaimed water line.
  • In 2009, a faulty valve on the boiler system in a Floyd County, VA high school caused classes to be cancelled because contaminated water was found in one restroom and kitchen.
  • Most recently in 2016 an emulsifier from a chemical tank in Corpus Christi, TX backflowed affecting the public water system. This caused the city to institute a four-day water ban.

The incidents above prove why cross-connection programs are important. Backflow incidents can be and are serious detriments to the water supply, hence why cross-connection control regulations are becoming increasingly stringent. The cost of not having a cross-connection control program multiplied with the cost it would be to respond to a backflow incident is astronomically higher than it would be to implement a tracking/notification program.

These are the questions any regulatory agency is going to ask you and you should be able to have this information at the click of a button. Backflow can happen. Would you be ready?

  • What if a major backflow incident were to occur in your water system?
  • Is your program organized enough to produce documentation of the property and/ or device(s) in question?
  • How many devices does the property have?
  • Where and at what isolation or containment device did this incident occur?
  • When the last test was for the device in question?
  • Who was the last testing company?
  • Was the tester who tested the device fully licensed and provided you a copy of their license and test gauge?
  • When was your last notification sent out notifying the customer of their device and due date?

With a web based solution like BSI’s Online program, you could answer easily. No need to search through a desk drawer or filing cabinet full of paper records or waiting for the day to be over to see new tests come through to populate a software program. Everything you need…in real time!

Hundreds of domestic and international customers have partnered with BSI Online because we have 30+ years of backflow and cross-connection industry knowledge and experience. We are not just a technology or software company; we are a backflow solutions company, able to consult on questions or concerns in the industry, including:

  • Backflow data management and notification
  • Physical inspections
  • Surveys
  • Remediation
  • Ordinance review and revision
  • EPA or governing agents compliance visits
  • Local or state code/regulation
  • Tester licensing and education
  • FOG tracking and notification