So just what is a Backflow Prevention Device?In the City water system, water normally flows under pressure from the well at the water plant through water pipes to the City water customers around town. As noted above, a backflow preventer prevents a reverse flow of water, where water could possibly flow backwards from a customer and back into the system. (This backflow is sometimes referred to as a “cross connection.”) That sounds impossible, but there are some very rare situations in which it could happen. One such situation is in fighting large fires. The fire truck arrives and places a large and sudden demand for water on the system in a particular location. Let’s imagine that a nearby business owner is getting ready to clean his building and needs to use a special concentrated chemical solvent for this purpose. He has placed the concentrated solvent in a 55 gallon drum, and has a hose in the drum to fill it up. The hose is underwater, and if there were a drastic and sudden demand for water - such as in fighting a large fire – the water from the drum could be sucked out of the drum and into the water system.
Such a scenario would be very rare and has not ever happened in Lake Wales to my knowledge. But the state agency that regulates all water utility operations across the state has determined that this is a possible hazard that must be addressed. There are a variety of backflow prevention devices, ranging from an inexpensive device that can be placed on a homeowner’s faucet, to large and elaborate devices to ensure water safety in a high hazard business use.
The basic means of preventing backflow is an air gap, which is simply a vertical, physical separation between the end of a water supply outlet and the flood-level rim of a receiving vessel. There are also a variety of mechanical backflow preventers, which provide a physical barrier to prevent the possibility of a backflow. Some of these devices are costly, involving two independently acting, spring loaded check valves.
Who can install them?As prescribed by the state, only a state certified backflow prevention installer can install the devices. Once they are installed, state regulations require that some types of the devices must be inspected and maintained annually by a state certified backflow prevention inspector.
Why do we do this?Ordinance 96-06 describing the City’s backflow prevention program was approved in 1996 and now appears in Section 21-72 of the City Code. This ordinance refers to rules in the Florida Administrative Code as the basis for the ordinance. The ordinance prohibits cross connections in the public water system and requires that all connections have a type of backflow device depending upon the hazard present from the particular water user, as determined by the City’s Utilities Director.
Additional information is available from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection website: www.dep.state.fl.us/water/drinkingwater/bfp.htm