Letter Orders Homeowners To Install Expensive Equipment, But Recalled Week Later
LABELLE, FL.-- Port LaBelle homeowners received a surprise and shocking letter in the mail last week ordering each house to install and test a backflow prevention assembly within "30 days of the date of this letter."
Many residents were in disbelief as the notice was read. While some residents took immediate action and called plumbers and purchased new equipment to install near their water meters to comply with the letter's order.
However, a week later, Roger Greer, long-time utilities director for Port LaBelle sent a new letter out to saying "please disregard the previous letter until this office receives... updated information."
The state of Florida Department of Environmental Protection and other states, for many decades have had rules to try to prevent the accidental backflow of chemicals or bacterial agents into the public water supply lines. In Florida the rules are listed under the Florida Administrative Code Rule 62-555-360.
The complex rules are recommendations on how to protect the public water lines and do require public water companies to file their "cross-connection" back flow prevention plan with the state.
The water back flow protection is especially important on commercial establishments where public water lines are improperly connected near waste or chemical lines. Should the public water line pressure be reduced there is a possibility to have waste water or chemical back flow into the public water line. Protective backflow devices are thus required of certain commercial operators between the main water line and the lines that may contaminate it.
In private homes a remote possibility of contamination comes from improperly plumbed water fixtures like toilets, and hose bibs. To prevent possible cross-contamination if water pressure drops, toilets must have an "air-gap" between the water fill tube and the water tank's water level. All toilets would have this unless someone accidentally installs the fill tube incorrectly.
Home garden water hoses also pose a potential problem if the hose is laying in contaminated liquid and might face the remote possibility of back siphoning if the public water pressure dropped. There are "anti-siphoning" devices that can be screwed on hose bibbs to prevent this. Garden sprinklers that are connected directly to the main water lines also could pose a danger and should have a protective device installed. Most area in-ground sprinkler systems, however are off a separate well and not connected to the public water line so would not pose any danger of backfeeding.
New building codes may now call for home water lines to be installed with back-flow prevention devices. There is no evidence according to water experts that there is any great danger of existing homes causing any backflow problems providing the plumbing system is operating as designed and the homeowner uses caution when installing equipment connected to the main water lines.
FAC Rules on water line "cross connections": http://suncitydave.info/DEP%20Rule%2062-555-360.pdf
DEP Information on backflow prevention: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/drinkingwater/bfp.htm
Consumer Pamphlets Online about backflow: http://www.nobackflow.com/pub-ed.htm
Letter from Southeast Florida Utilities Council on costs (about $500): http://www.sefluc.org/apps/news_sefluc_works_with_fdep_cross_connection_control_2008_08_25.pdf