Your first thought when reading this notice is, "What is the Backflow Program and do these changes affect me?" Please read on and we will explain the changes we are making to this important program that protects the quality of the water both in your home and in the water system itself.
Your home may be one of the approximately 90 homes within our District that has a "Backflow Device" also called a "water system protective device." To understand why a backflow device is necessary, let me explain a little about how a water system works. Your drinking water is pushed from the district's water main into your property’s plumbing by pressure and it should only flow in one direction. Sometimes, due to pressure changes in pipes, the water can flow backwards into your water line or district water lines and could contaminate the public water supply with human waste or chemicals.
When can this backwards (or backflow) occur? In properties that have multiple water lines, such as those that have fire sprinklers in the house, or have a separate water line to a swimming pool. It can also happen if the outdoor irrigation system is accidentally "cross-connected" to the indoor plumbing system by someone that doesn't understand plumbing.
To protect against this contamination, a specialized backflow preventer valve is installed at strategic locations in the plumbing system wherever there is a risk of contaminated fluids entering the water supply pipes. Because these valves use moving parts, they are often required to be inspected or tested periodically.
For many years, customers were required to annually retain a certified backflow tester to inspect and test the backflow devices, and if they passed, send the certification to us. If they didn't pass, the customer arranged the repairs and then had the unit retested and then sent the certification - this work had to be completed between February 1st and March 31st. This process was difficult for some customers and several asked if the District could help them with completing the requirements.
Last year, the District conducted a pilot study; the study included 1) offering to do the testing for customers for $27.00 and 2) conducting a quality review of the outside firms that were hired by other customers to perform testing. The majority of customers chose to have the District perform the testing and were happy with the process. While some of the devices failed the test and had to be repaired (which was still the responsibility of the customer), the fact that they were not charged again for retesting was a benefit over using an outside contractor.
With regards to the second part of the pilot program - reviewing the quality of the tests performed by the outside plumbing contractors, a disturbing trend was present: almost half of the recently tested devices failed when we tested them. Based upon this, at their December 18, 2019 Meeting, our Board decided that District staff would now perform all backflow testing.
What does this mean for our Backflow Customers? This process will be much easier - you don't need to contact a backflow certified tester, you don't need to arrange to be home to have the test done, and you won't need to send us the certificate if the device passes - we will provide you with a copy as well as the Orange County Health Care Agency. You will be billed a fee of $28.60 (Fiscal Year 2020's fee) regardless of how many times your device needs to be tested. You will still be responsible for having your device repaired within three (3) days of being notified of the failed test, and the cost of these repairs are the customer's responsibility, however as we noted previously, you will not be charged for the retest.
We appreciate your support for and compliance with the Backflow Program, and we hope that this information helps you understand this important program that is used to protect our water system from contamination.