Mike Eisenhauer, Chair
Effective Backflow Management (Part 3 of 3)
· Do you know where all of the backflow assemblies are located in your water system?
· Have all cross-connections in your water system been removed or protected by an approved backflow assembly?
· Have all testable backflow prevention assemblies in your water system been tested by a licensed CCCDI in the last twelve months?
In the last two issues we have discussed the first two elements in all effective backflow programs. Locating existing backflow prevention assemblies (survey) and causing existing cross-connections to be removed or protected by a backflow prevention assembly (inspection) are both critical to an effective program; and the really good news is that both activities are actually baseline functions. What is meant by a baseline function is an activity in which the bulk of the work is performed only once to produce the required data or information you need and that information then becomes your "baseline”. New information is then simply added to your baseline, as new backflow assemblies are installed or new inspections are performed. This approach, of course, is only effective if the information on all newly permitted plumbing modifications and all newly installed backflow prevention assemblies are incorporated into your baseline survey and inspection tracking systems.
The final element in all effective cross-connection control programs is ensuring that all installed testable backflow prevention assemblies are tested at least annually. This annual test, and all of the related information associated with the test, must be recorded so that the water operator can be assured that the hazardous connection being protected by the backflow assembly is actually performing to all of the applicable standards. The accumulation of all of this information is commonly known as your record keeping system.
Always keep in mind: the reason that a backflow assembly is installed is because, at the point of connection to the water distribution system where the backflow assembly is located, there is an actual or potential piping connection that can deliver hazardous contaminants or pollutants into the potable water system.
All effective backflow prevention record keeping systems start by establishing an annual due date for the inspection and certification of the backflow assembly test. The due date is typically the anniversary date of the initial or first test when the backflow assembly is newly installed. After establishing the due date, do not change the date. Maintain the original due date for as long as that assembly is in your record keeping system. For those properties with more than one backflow assembly, you will probably establish a date where all backflow assemblies within that property will have the same due date. This leads to a more cost effective method of notifying your customers when their backflow assemblies are due for inspection.
In addition to establishing the annual due date for backflow prevention assemblies located in your distribution system, documentation of many other bits of information is required or recommended to truly accomplish an effective record keeping system. Some of this additional information are things like: contractor name and license number; tester name and license number; test gauge calibration; date of each test; repairs or servicing required; date of repairs; hazard protected Backflow Assembly Identifiers - i.e., size, manufacturer, make, serial number, type (RP or DC), location; Test Results - i.e., first check reading, second check reading, relief valve opening, buffer, pass/fail; Property Information - i.e., name (owner and or tenant), physical address, mailing address, city, state, zip, phone number, notification contact, onsite contact.
Now that we know what to do to have an effective record keeping system, the question becomes, how do we do it? The two main methods of maintaining an effective record keeping system are commercially available software administered by water department personnel and outsourcing to a professional management firm.
When choosing to administer your backflow program in-house, keep in mind a few of the administrative requirements that you will need to develop.
1) Choose the correct commercial software for your water system. Many software packages are designed to only allow the water utility to track up to a certain number of backflow assemblies. When you reach the allowable number of assemblies you must up-grade your user package to accommodate your growing backflow program.
2) Make sure that the water department personnel charged with all of the data input have been trained in the technical aspects of backflow prevention, so that when backflow test forms are submitted to the water department, all of the information required by the IEPA is included on the test forms.
3) Test due notification letters must be sent in a timely fashion to allow the consumer time to have their backflow assemblies tested and the results forwarded to the water department prior to the annual due date.
4) Make sure that you verify with the appropriate state regulatory agencies (IEPA & IDPH) that the companies as well as the individual CCCDI's that submit backflow tests have valid current license's.
5) Provide adequate staffing to ensure that all backflow test reports submitted are entered into your tracking system in a timely manner.
If you choose to outsource the administration of your backflow program you will have to ensure that your administration partner is well versed in all of the applicable IEPA rules and regulations and has the ability to adequately perform all of the information tracking duties listed above.
To conclude this series on effective backflow management, let's review the basic steps common to all effective backflow prevention programs. First and foremost, your water system must have an adequate tracking or record keeping system. Each and every day backflow test reports are sent to water systems across Illinois and all of this information must have some place to be deposited. It is the duty, as well as the responsibility, of each water purveyor to ensure that all backflow assemblies in your distribution system are tested and maintained at least annually. Remember that your current backflow program is as small today as it will ever be, so find a record keeping system that works for you and get started today. Second, and equally as important, is to conduct a system survey to identify all backflow prevention assemblies in your distribution system and to make sure that all of those assemblies are integrated into your record-keeping system. Last, but most certainly not least, is to identify all existing cross-connections in all of the structures served by your water system and either cause those cross-connections to be removed or to be adequately protected by an approved backflow prevention assembly.