That is about how every conversation starts. Well guess what. It has ALWAYS been a requirement, (for the City of Olathe) but… the municipalities have not had the resources to enforce nor always the knowledge that you had a sprinkler system. So, let us explain a few things about how we got here and why backflow cross connection certification by a licensed certified tester is important to our municipal water supply.
Annual backflow testing is vital to public safety. Cross-connection devices, or backflows, sole purpose it to keep water flowing in one direction only.
Backflow, as they are nicknamed for short, would be flow in the opposite direction of its source. So, a backflow PREVENTER keeps water from traveling back to where it came from. This is important because we don’t want to contaminate our water supplies with foreign materials. ie. pesticides, soil, rocks, earthen debris, construction debris and so on. Because without something to stop water from free flowing in both directions, all of these items could and would end up in our main water supply to be delivered to our friends and neighbor’s houses. Pesticides are placed onto the yards to prevent bugs, weeds or any other pest.
If you have an irrigation system, then you have sprinkler heads throughout your yard. These are open avenues to the municipal supply without a backflow in place. That’s bad. Construction of a new irrigation system can mean that little rocks and dirt can end up in the pipes. That means that these foreign materials could end up in our supply. Because, as water in a network travels past an inactive line, it can produce a vacuum that would suck the contents right on down for a ride. Just like an open straw. Backflows prevent that.
Ok, so now we know what a backflow preventer does. Why does it need to be tested annually and WHY can’t I do it myself.
We have been testing devices for several years. In that time, we have found about 30% of these devices tested to fail. We have also come along to new clients that have had another company testing for years to realize that devices can have manufacturing defects preventing them from working from new. Ethical testers are vital to the success of a cross-connection testing regime. Like anywhere, there are those that are just taking your money. So don’t get mad when, “The guy before never had a problem”, and we find something in err.
We also find there are some devices that just need a little nudge to work properly again. You see, these are made of rubber, plastic and brass. If they are not shocked and tested periodically, they get stuck and will stop performing. This is why an annual inspection is important more so than one of a larger increment.
Why can’t you as a homeowner do your own test? First, it needs gauges specifically for the vacuum tests to perform. These gauges run about $1500 and go up from there. They have to be calibrated periodically and you have to know how to use them. Our testers are required to take a 40 hour class to learn the properties of a backflow preventer. I am a licensed professional engineer capable of designing and have designed municipal water supplies but I can’t test a backflow. HA! It is these reasons combined with the required paperwork that these tests have charges associated with them. Also why you will see a variance in cost from company to company. To do the test proper and file everything proper takes time and as we all know, time costs money. So the next time you are pricing this service, keep that in mind.
I DON’T CARE and I’m not doing it. And that is your prerogative, however, the municipality has the authority to turn your water off if you are not in compliance with testing. It is a risk, some take and it isn’t pretty. Because when it gets shut off, and it does, you are looking for someone fast. We highly suggest that you be proactive and just admit defeat by the municipality.
Why do I have to do this now??? I never had to before… Municipalities like the City of Olathe have spent tons of money to improve water use monitoring. With these improvements of remote monitoring, the computer programs can compare usage. Useage numbers get compared to known usage numbers with irrigation systems. Records are searched for letters of compliance with cross-connection, from there an automated letter is generated and sent requesting your compliance. Should this notice go unaddressed, another is issued with various threats.
New backflow installation and replacement all now require a plumbing permit be issued in the City of Olathe. To pull a permit, it must be done by either the homeowner or a Johnson County licensed plumber. Hometown Lawn is licensed by Johnson County as a plumber and may pull these permits.
All in all, we live in a changing world and just because you never had to before doesn’t mean you will be able to ignore this in the future. It’s not a great conspiracy but an effort to keep the public safe from cross contamination. If you have received one of these letters, give us a call 913-256-5296 and we would be happy to help. Use someone you can trust and make sure that your money is not being spent in vain.