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What Are Some Differences in Municipal Cross Connection Control Programs?

Posted by Cary Wiley on December 4, 2019

What Are Some Differences in Municipal Cross Connection Control Programs?

Hazard classification, backflow placement, and testing frequency are just some of the ways municipal cross-connection programs differ. It’s a question that comes up a lot as I travel the country meeting with water authority officials. So, I’d like to address it here, by laying out the differences and explaining the significance of each. 

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Cross Connection “Rules of Enforcement”

One of the biggest challenges for engineers, contractors, distributors, and manufacturers is the vast differences in municipal Cross Connection Control programs.  The rules of enforcement for one municipality can be vastly different from the neighboring municipality, and they may share the same water supply!  Some of the major differences in Cross Connection Control programs across the country are as follows:

Hazard Classification – some municipalities use an arbitrary Level of Hazard to determine which type of backflow preventer to install.  “Low Hazard” applications receive DCs or DCDAs, while “High Hazard” applications require RPZs to protect the water supply.  Other municipalities ignore the current hazard level and install RPZs on all new and updated service lines.

Backflow Placement – some municipalities allow DCs and DCDAs to be installed in below-ground vaults and incur the dangers of confined space entry.  Others require all backflow preventers to be installed inside the building in a mechanical room or basement.  Still, others require backflow preventers to be installed outdoors, above-ground and in a heated enclosure.

Approvals and Minimum Standards – some municipalities require certain minimum standards for backflow preventer approvals.  Approval from The Foundation for Cross Connection Control and Hydraulic Research at the University of Southern California is a common requirement for municipal backflow programs (commonly referred to as USC approval).  ASSE/IAPMO also has common certifications for backflow preventers that municipalities use to ensure that quality products are protecting the water supply.

Testing Frequency – some municipalities require all backflows in the system to be tested and certified every year.  Others require a test on RPZs in high hazard applications to be tested every 6 months.  We’ve also seen certifications required every 3 years, and in some cases, the backflow is tested at installation and then never seen or heard from again.

Ground Clearance Requirements – most municipalities require the relief valve of an RPZ to be a minimum of 12” above the ground.  However, some municipalities require 16”, 18”, 24” and even 30” of ground clearance.

Program Fees – there is a huge range of program fees that differ greatly in price, frequency, and certification requirements.

Tester Forms and Procedures – Some municipalities have standard forms, some have to be issued by the municipality with their logos, some can be pre-filled with tester credentials, and some have to be handwritten in blue ink only!

As you can see, there is a litany of differences in Cross Connection Control programs that makes it difficult to keep up with all of the variables.  This is especially difficult for Backflow Testers, who often test in multiple jurisdictions and have to keep up with EVERY SINGLE VARIABLE, just to stay in compliance.  

How To Simplify Cross-Connection Programs

Brian Fiorisi, owner of Test Gauge & Backflow Supply in Dallas, TX says “backflow testers have a very difficult job keeping up with all of the little differences between municipalities.  Some of our customers have over 20 different forms that they sort through every day just to enter their test results”.  

It’s also difficult for contractors who have job installations in multiple jurisdictions, engineers who have to design jobs with vastly different specifications, and manufacturers who have to make products that meet everyone’s requirements.  Unfortunately, there is not a simple solution to these vast differences. Each water jurisdiction has its reasons for enforcing the protection of their water supply.  

At Safe-T-Cover we simply recommend that water authorities have clear specifications and standard details that everyone can reference and follow.  Comprehensive specifications and standard details always keep everyone on the same page, regardless of how many pages there are.

If you’d like to rethink the standard details for your water distribution system we can help. We have a guide that breaks down the trends we’re seeing in backflow preventer installations. Download it today. 

backflow preventer

Topics: Standard Details