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Measures are to prevent drinking water contamination

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Barrie councillors have given initial approval to backflow prevention and cross connection control measures to further prevent drinking water contamination.

Barrie councillors have given initial approval to backflow prevention and cross connection control measures to further prevent drinking water contamination.

The city is tightening its backflow prevention and cross connection controls.

Barrie councillors gave initial approval Monday to the measures, which are to further prevent drinking water contamination.

“It is a major component in ensuring that we provide safe drinking water to the people in the city of Barrie,” said John Thompson, director of environmental services.

Backflow is the reversal of water flow within a plumbing system that can occur from back-pressure or back siphoning, while a cross-connection is a link between drinking water and any source of pollution or contamination.

Backflow prevention and cross connection controls are in place for institutional, commercial, industrial properties in Barrie – as well as multi-residential properties of four and more.

Thompson said the new measures clarify that four or more residential units on one property are subject to the controls, and the water supply is the responsibility of the property owner.

He said there could be as many as 200 properties in Barrie with four or more residential units, which would mean a minimum of 800 residences could be affected.

The measures would also provide clarity as to which properties require a cross-connection survey and a testable on-premise isolation backflow preventer.

Every owner of industrial, commercial, institutional, agricultural and multi-residential property (four or more units) must have a cross-connection survey done on the plumbing service of their property by a qualified plumber.

The city has a list of 80 plumbers, and the average cost is $100 to $300 for most mid-to-low rise multi-residential buildings, and small commercial buildings. It can also vary depending on the hourly rate, along with the size and complexity of the building and its plumbing system.

The reason for the survey is to determine the level of risk, and the hazards within the building and ensure the proper measures are selected.

But Mayor Jeff Lehman says he's heard some negative feedback.

“While it's a necessary measure, especially in large commercial properties and so-forth, it does get questioned when you're down to the level of a four-unit residential building, whether this is truly needed,” he said. “And all of these things do have a cost that gets passed on (to tenants).

“When people (owners) complain about this, they generally complain about the cost of all of it ... the one-time hit on the plumbing” Lehman said. “It's just not something they ever thought they needed to do.

“Many businesses question, given the nature of their business activity why, if they've got one toilet in the warehouse, it's truly necessary for them to have a backflow prevention device, right? Or if they use no water of any kind in their production process, it's just a employee washroom.”

Thompson said the risk is real and cited, in 2010, a private property service break

resulted in reduced pressure, which drew a de-greaser from a neighbouring facility and brought it into the water distribution system.

“We were luckily on (site) at the time,” he said. “We protected the rest of the city from that ... so the risks are real, and the place that had the de-greaser might have only had one washroom.”

The backflow prevention device, a valve, is to be located within no more than three metres downstream from the water meter, and all piping between the water meter and this device should have no other connections.

“There are two common types, and multiple other (backflow prevention) devices,” said Adam Muise of Kempenfelt Plumbing and Backflow Services in Barrie. “The most common two are double-check valve assembly and reduced pressure assembly.

“Both are double-check valves, one has a relief vent for a more severe hazard level.”

Thompson said he sees an expansion of backflow prevention and cross connection control measures in the future.

“I will note I think in the future somebody, either myself or someone else sitting in this chair, that comes to you and wants to put it on all residences,” he said.

Council will consider final approval of these new measures at its Jan. 16 meeting.


What is a cross-connection?

It is any connection between drinking water and any source of pollution or contamination. Cross connections pose a hazard to the drinking water system if backflow was to occur and contaminated water is drawn back into the drinking water.

What is backflow?

It is the undesired reversal of water flow within a plumbing system.

This can occur two ways:

Backpressure: The pressure within a building is greater than the drinking water system pressure. This results in the water within that building being forced backward and into the drinking water system. These situations can occur in high-rise buildings as a result of increasing pressures to pump water to the upper floors.

Back siphonage: The pressure in the drinking water system is decreased to a negative pressure resulting in the water within the building being sucked into the drinking water system. Causes include a watermain break, hydrant flushing operations or firefighting operations.

In these instances the unprotected cross connections to the drinking water system, which contain pollutants or contaminants, have the potential to be drawn or forced back into the drinking water piping and distributed throughout the system.

This results in unsafe conditions on the property and places the drinking water system, and citizens of the community, at risk.

For more information, visit Backflow Prevention via

Source: City of Barrie







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