Frequently Asked Questions - Backflow/Cross Connection

This is a combined cooperative effort between plumbing and health officials, waterworks companies, property owners and certified testers to establish and administer guidelines for controlling cross connections and implementing means to ensure their enforcement. This will ensure that the public potable water supply will be protected both in the city main and within buildings. The elements of a program define the type of protection required and responsibility for the administration and enforcement. Other elements ensure continuing education programs.


Because of the growing number of serious residential backflow cases, many water purveyors are now requiring the installation of approved dual check valve backflow preventers at residential water meters. They are also educating the public concerning cross connections and the danger of backflow into the local water supply. Since water purveyors cannot possibly be responsible for or monitor the use of water within a residence, the requirements for these cross connection control programs are increasing throughout the country.

Yes, and this is to ensure that the valve is working properly and is a requirement of many states and cross connection control programs. Test cocks are provided on the valve for this purpose and manufacturers are required to furnish field-testing information.

 Leakage from a backflow preventer is normally attributed to foreign matter lodging on the seating area of either the first or second check valve. Most times this can be corrected by simply flushing the valve that will dislodge any loose particles. It is, therefore, most important on new installations that the piping be thoroughly flushed before installing the unit. It should be remembered, however, that spillage does provide a "warning signal" that the valve is in need of maintenance.

This type should be used whenever the non-potable source is more of a contaminant than a pollutant. Basically, they are applied as main line protection to protect the municipal water supply, but should also be used on branch line applications where non-potable fluid would constitute a health hazard, such as boiler feed lines, commercial garbage disposal systems, industrial boilers, etc.

Briefly, Double Check Valve Assemblies may be used ~ where the degree of hazard is low, meaning that the non- ~ potable source is polluted rather than contaminated. The degree of hazard is oftentimes determined by local Inspection Departments and, therefore, such departments should be questioned in order to comply with local regulations.

A double check valve assembly may be used as protection of all direct connections through which foreign material might enter the potable system in a concentration that would constitute a nuisance or be aesthetically objectionable, such as air, steam, food, or other material which does not constitute a health hazard

Toxic substance is any liquid, solid or gas, which when introduced into the water supply creates, or may create a danger to health and well being of the consumer. An example is treated boiler water. A non-toxic substance is any substance that may create a non-health hazard and is a nuisance or is aesthetically objectionable. For example, foodstuff, such as sugar, soda pop, etc. Therefore, you must select the proper device according to the type of connection and degree of hazard. There are five basic products that can be used to correct cross connection.

The degree of hazard is a commonly used phrase utilized in cross connection programs and is simply a determination on whether the substance in the non-potable system is toxic (health hazard) or non-toxic (non-health hazard).

Much to the surprise of the customers of a bank in Atlanta, Georgia they saw yellow water flowing from drinking fountains and green ice rolling out of cafeteria dispensing machines. It was later reported that a pump, used for the air conditioning system, burned out; and a maintenance man, unaware of the danger, connected the system to another pump used for potable water. The result caused large doses of bichromate of soda to be forced into the potable water supply, causing the dramatic appearance of yellow water and colored ice cubes.

Most people are familiar with the details of the Holy Cross Football Teams' "hepatitis" incident, which was later determined to be caused by a backflow of contaminated water. It took close to nine months for officials to determine that a severe fire in nearby Worcester lowered the pressure in the football field area to the point where a back pressure backflow condition was created allowing contaminants from a sunken hose bibb pit to backflow into the field house drinking bubbler.

Chicken House Cross-Connection, Spring 1991. In response to a complaint from a customer on the Casa Water System (Perry County), a staff member of the Division of Engineering found that the water systems had been contaminated by backflow from chicken houses. The water system connected to the chicken houses included two single check valves in series for backflow prevention purposes. The water was being used to administer an antibiotic solution to the chickens.

A hose bibb vacuum breaker should be installed on every sill cock to isolate garden hose applications thus protecting the potable water supply from contamination.

The purpose of a sill cock is to permit easy attachment of a hose for outside watering purposes. However, a garden hose can be extremely hazardous because they are left submerged in swimming pools, lay in elevated locations (above the sill cock) watering shrubs, chemical sprayers are attached to hoses for weed-killing, etc.; and hoses are often left laying on the ground which may be contaminated with fertilizer, cesspools, and garden chemicals.

Ironically, the ordinary garden hose is the most common offender as it can be easily connected to the potable water supply and used for a variety of potentially dangerous applications.

A cross connection is a direct arrangement of a piping line which allows the potable water supply to be connected to a line which contains a contaminant. An example is the common garden hose attached to a sill cock with the end of the hose lying in a cesspool. Other examples are a garden hose attached to a service sink with the end of the hose submerged in a tub full of detergent, supply lines connected to bottom-fed tanks, supply lines to boilers.

Back pressure-backflow is created whenever the downstream pressure exceeds the supply pressure which is possible in installations such as heating systems, elevated-tanks, and pressure-producing systems. An example would be a hot water space-heating boiler operating under 15-20 Ibs. pressure coincidental with a reduction of the city water supply below such pressure (or higher in most commercial boilers). As water tends to flow in the direction of least resistance, a backpressure-backflow condition would be created and the contaminated boiler water would flow into the potable water supply.

Backpressure backflow is the reversal of normal flow in a system due to an increase in the downstream pressure above that of the supply pressure.

Back-siphonage can be created when there is stoppage of the water supply due to nearby fire-fighting, repairs or breaks in city main, etc. The effect is similar to the sipping of an ice cream soda by inhaling through a straw, which induces a flow in the opposite direction.

Back-siphonage is the reversal of normal flow in a system caused by a negative pressure (vacuum or partial vacuum) in   the supply piping.

For questions or to report problems: 412-372-2677