Water quality protection program underway

WESTFIELD – A major threat to drinking water quality is in every house in the city, in a hose attached to an outside faucet called a hose bib.
That threat is called a cross connection, which allows water to be drawn back through the hose into the city’s water system if there is significant enough pressure.
A simple device called a vacuum breaker can prevent that from occurring and prevent the back flow of water.
Charles Darling, a Water Resource Department engineer, said the city has had a cross connection education and enforcement program since the late 1980s for both residential and commercial customers. However, the emphasis on enforcement has been with commercial facilities which are typically serviced by larger water lines, meaning that back flow pollution incident would occur more quickly.
Darling said that the most serious incident occurred 20 years ago in the Shaker Heights neighborhood when a company applying lawn chemicals used a garden hose to pressurize the chemical holding tank with water.
“What happened is that they were using a hose to apply pesticides, when the department opened a hydrant, causing a drop in water pressure and sucking the chemicals into the water system,” Darling said. Luckily we started getting calls immediately because the tap water smelled so bad. We had to go door to door in the affected area to tell residents not to use their water.”
The department had to begin flushing the water lines in that neighborhood and tested the water quality until the chemicals were no longer present
The most common incident involves water hoses being use to fill swimming pools when a water line break or during a fire when hydrants are opened, drawing the water back through the hose.
The other major cross-connection concern is related to in-ground sprinkler systems, which under state law and city regulations, requires that a vacuum-breaker back-flow device be incorporated into the sprinkler system
Darling said the cross-connection inspector, Ed Boucher, is available to assist residents by inspecting their automatic sprinkler system to insure that the back-flow device is working properly.
The back-flow devices are available at local hardware stores and at the Water Resource Department of Sackett Street.

To read more on the dangers of cross connections, click here.

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