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What to do about backflow prevention.

What to do about backflow prevention

Lately there's been a lot of talk about water backflow prevention and the installation of backflow prevention devises. Many building owners have, in fact, begun receiving notices from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) citing that their properties must comply with the new backflow prevention requirements.

The question for many begins with the term "backflow." What is it and why does it need to be prevented?

Put simply, backflow is the flow of water or other liquids into a potable water supply from any unintentional source. Such backflow often occurs in tandem with "back siphonage" - the flowing back of used, contaminated, or polluted from a plumbing fixture into a water supply due to negative pressure.

The reason backflow must be prevented, therefore, is to avert contamination. Say, for example, the street's water pressure dropped significantly, it is possible that any contaminants present in a particular building's system (cleansers, disinfectants, insecticides, etc.) could wash into street mains.

Actually, this issue is nothing new. Since 1974, when the Federal Safe Drinking-Water Act went into effect, installation of RPZs (reduced pressure zone backflow prevention devices) have been a requirement. These plumbing items are attached to incoming mains and prevent potentially tainted building water from backing up into the city's system.

In 1981, the state passed its own law, the Backflow Prevention Program. The Bureau of Water Supply (BWS) did not start checking for RPZs in the New York City area, however, until 1988, when it formed its Cross Connection Control Unit. Moreover, the city only stepped up its search in June 1990 - just before Governor Mario Cuomo signed a bill requiring the work to be done by licensed master plumbers.

The RPZs are meant to protect the city's water supply. They serve to divert any contaminants into the sewer, thereby protecting the city's water. Their installation can be costly, though, and serious consideration should be given to who installs them and when. At Wexler, for instance, we have been suggesting to many that they contract for RPZ and water metering installation at the same time. Since they are both hooked up to the same main, dual installation can be much more cost-effective.

Currently, the prime targets for the city's inspectors are hospitals, mortuaries, car washes, and other facilities that use hazardous chemicals. Nevertheless, they are also looking for buildings that use cleaning and anti-fungal solutions in the boilers and roof water-tanks, and those who have doctor's offices. What's more, there is no maximum or minimum building size. The only real way to protect yourself and your building is to consult with a reputable plumber - one who is familiar with the law.

Discuss all options with your plumber before signing any contracts. In addition, you should make certain that he is familiar with all installation regulations and has a proven track record for adhering to them. Remember, improper installation can be quite costly.
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Insider Outlook
Author:Wexler, Robert
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 25, 1991
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