Mike Eisenhauer, Chair
Why Do We Do This?
Sometimes in the world of cross-connection control
and backflow prevention we lose sight of the forest because of all the trees.
We become so completely focused on adhering to all of the regulatory rules and
regulations that we sometimes forget to ask "why”. Why are the regulations
written the way that they are? Why do I
administer my backflow program the way that I do? What are we actually trying to accomplish? Why, why, why?
The answers to almost all of the "whys” of effective
cross-connection control management become very clear when we acknowledge and
accept that backflow happens, and our job is to prevent it.
Our first responsibility is to ensure that no new
cross-connections are created. Why? The simple answer is because this is the
easiest part of effective cross-connection control. All new plumbing should be
properly permitted allowing for plan review as well as actual on site plumbing
inspections. Any hazardous connections will be identified by the plumbing
inspector and the appropriate backflow prevention assembly will be required to
Now that we have a plan to protect all of the new
plumbing installed, what about all of the old plumbing? By old plumbing I mean
any plumbing that was installed prior the mid 1980’s when the Illinois Plumbing
Code first required the installation of backflow prevention assemblies at
unprotected cross-connections. Why? There
are hundreds or thousands or more of existing unprotected cross-connections in
each and every water system. We never know exactly when backflow will happen
but we can be absolutely certain that when it does occur and contamination of
the water system is the result, that contamination will be from an unprotected
After the discovery and remediation of actual or
potential cross-connections, the most important element of all effective
cross-connection control programs is record keeping. Why? Each and every
backflow prevention assembly that is being tracked in your record keeping
system is, in fact, a known point of entry to the water system that can potentially
allow a contaminated substance into the water system. All backflow prevention
assemblies are mechanical devices and, as such, require routine maintenance and
service to ensure that they are actually doing their job of protecting the
water supply from contamination.
When the day-to-day frustrations of how to
effectively manage your cross-connection control program are weighing on your
shoulders, keep in mind the whys, and then it all becomes worthwhile.