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Water distribution systems are designed with the intention of the water flowing in a certain direction-from the distribution system to the consumer. However, hydraulic conditions within the system may deviate from the “normal” conditions causing a change of pressure in the system and resulting in water flow in the opposite direction or backwards. Therefore, it is possible (and common) for the water to flow in the opposite direction in unprotected systems. This is called backflow.
Backflow is dangerous because it can allow chemicals, bacteria or pollutants to flow into drinking water in your plumbing system and the drinking water can become contaminated and unusable or even possibly deadly.
Thermal expansion is a dangerous increase in water pressure due to heated water having nowhere to go in a closed system. All backflow prevention devices and many water meters are manufactured with check valves in them to prevent water from flowing in reverse and into our water system. The valves are a safety feature that protects the city water supply from contamination; however, they create a closed water system.
The closed system is not a problem until water is heated with little or no space for expansion. The result is a dangerous increase in water pressure that can damage water heaters, plumbing systems and fixtures. Thermal expansion may lead to more serious problems and may also contribute to water heater ruptures and in rare cases explosions. But, there’s a solution!
There are signs to look for to identify potential problems before more serious ones occur. Please learn the signs of thermal expansion from the list. Some signs of thermal expansion:
It’s important to know that the water heater relief valve should not be used as a means of controlling thermal expansion. Instead, contact a plumbing professional if you suspect a problem. The plumber can schedule an inspection and install proper thermal expansion control methods. Contact Angel Goike with the Cross Connection office at 931-553-2489 for more information.
Any physical or potential connection whereby the public water supply is connected with any other water system, whether private or public, either inside or outside any building or buildings, in such a manner that flow of water into the public water supply is possible through the manipulation of valves or because of ineffective check of back pressure valves, or because of any other arrangement. This means any pipe, valve, fixture, etc. in a drinking water plumbing system that may allow the drinking water within the system to become contaminated or questionable in quality.
Some of the most harmful threats resulting in a backflow come from swimming pools, lawn irrigation systems and garden hoses. Through these devices a vacuum can be created and water can accidentally flow backwards or backflow carrying any chemical, cleaner or other contaminant directly back into our drinking water supply. Even a simple garden hose submerged into a pool, a bucket of water or other container filled with liquid can create a vacuum. However, there are a few simple preventative steps to follow around your home to avoid backflows.
Backflow preventers are mechanical plumbing devices installed in a plumbing system to prevent water from flowing backward in the system. A properly installed, tested and maintained backflow preventer can reliably prevent the backflow of water of an unknown quality from flowing back into the public water system.
The installation and maintenance of backflow prevention devices shall be at the expense of the owner or occupant of the premises. If you don’t know if you need a backflow prevention device or if your water supply is protected, call the Cross Connection Control Office at 931-553-2489 for more information.