The City of Odessa Utilities Department not only works to treat its potable water supply to meet state standards, but also maintains the distribution system to ensure the continued quality of the water. Normally, the treated water flows from our treatment plant, through the distribution system, to our customers’ homes and businesses. However, under unusual circumstances, water can actually flow in the opposite direction allowing water from hose bibs, boilers, irrigation systems, and industrial processes to enter the distribution system and potentially deteriorate the water quality. These conditions exist when there is an unprotected cross connection between the customer’s water system and the distribution system allowing back pressure or back siphonage to occur. Backpressure occurs when a pressurized container “pumps” water into the distribution system. Backsiphonage occurs when the pressure in the distribution system drops dramatically (e.g. major water line break) resulting in the water from the customer’s piping being drawn into or siphoned into the distribution system.
To resolve these potential backflow scenarios, a backflow prevention assembly (BFPA) is installed on designated customers’ lines so that if backpressure or backsiphonage occurs, the water from the customer’s line is prevented from entering the distribution system. The type of BFPA installed depends on the type of contaminates found in the customer’s water lines. The more hazardous substances require a more protective device.
Many BFPA’s have been installed throughout the City at businesses and on irrigation systems. Whenever new construction is to occur, the City’s Building Inspection Division determines if a BFPA is required and if so ensures that it is properly installed. When a BFPA is required, the customer must have a licensed plumber install the BFPA and tester registered with the City test the assembly upon installation. In addition, BFPA’s which protect against health hazards are tested annually to ensure they are functioning properly. If not, they are repaired or replaced then retested.
The Utilities Department tracks the records for BFPA testing and maintains a list of registered testers. The Pretreatment Division personnel also look for potential cross connections during commercial/industrial inspections. If cross connections are suspected, Building Inspections is notified to conduct a more thorough inspection. Only testing performed by a registered tester will be acknowledged by the City.