In compliance with Washington State Administrative Code 246-290-490, which regulates the city’s Cross Connection Control Program, Bellevue Utilities inspects drinking water systems on properties to protect against contamination. We do this by using backflow prevention assemblies.
These assemblies vary in size, shape, value, and location; however, they all do the same thing -- they prevent dangerous backflow. Our goal is to protect your drinking water and the city’s drinking water distribution system.
Backflow Explained: Keeping Your Drinking Water Safe
It's just what it sounds like; the water is flowing in the opposite direction from its normal flow. With the direction of flow reversed due to a change in pressure, backflow can allow contaminants to enter your drinking water system through cross connections. Backsiphonage is the reversal of normal flow in a system caused by a vacuum or partial vacuum within the water supply piping. Backpressure is the reversal of normal flow in a system due to pressure higher than the supply pressure. If you have an irrigation system for your yard, boiler, pool/spa, water feature, fire sprinkler system or photo development equipment, state law requires that you get a backflow prevention assembly to prevent contaminated water from flowing back into your drinking water--a serious health hazard. Many businesses are also required to have backflow prevention. Even the best backflow assembly can fail because of freezing, debris, improper installation and unapproved plumbing connections. That's why state law requires that backflow assemblies be tested annually by a certified backflow assembly tester to ensure that the assemblies will function if there is a backflow event.
Plumbing connections that raise concerns for Backflow Prevention
- Janitor sinks
- Hose bibs (inside and outside garden hose faucets)
- Lawn irrigation systems
- Lake, stream, well water supplies
- Laboratory equipment
- Processing tanks
- Water recirculation systems
- Swimming pools
- Solar heat systems
- Fire sprinkler systems
Elevating Water Quality: The Significance of Premise Isolation
Premise Isolation is backflow prevention installed or created at the incoming source to the property (usually at the meter) with an air gap and/or Reduce Pressure Backflow Assembly (RPBA). This will be required for service connections posing a high health cross connection hazard including, but not limited to, the following:
- Agricultural (farms & dairies)
- Beverage bottling plants
- Car washes
- Chemical plants
- Commercial laundries, dry cleaners
- Premises where both reclaimed water and drinking water are provided
- Film processing plants
- Food processing facilities
- Hospitals, medical centers, nursing homes, veterinary, medical and dental clinics, and blood plasma centers
- Metal plating
- Petroleum processing or storage plants
- Piers and docks
- Radioactive material
- processing plants or nuclear reactors
- Radioactive material processing plants or nuclear reactors
- Survey access denied or restricted
- Wastewater lift stations and plumbing stations
- Wastewater treatment plants
- With lakes, streams, wells, and the city water supply, whether or not interconnected with the potable water supply
Preserving Purity: Cross Connections and Water Contamination
A cross connection is a permanent or temporary piping arrangement which can allow your drinking water to be contaminated if a backflow condition occurs. For example, if a garden hose is left in a bucket of soapy water and there is a change in water pressure, the soapy water could flow back into your drinking water system. Whenever a plumbing fixture is connected to the drinking water supply, a potential cross connection exists. Most of the time these cross connections are controlled by the use of a backflow prevention device. These devices are usually installed by a plumber when the building is constructed and many of them need to be tested and maintained annually. Drinking water systems may become polluted or contaminated through uncontrolled cross connections. Cross connections are installed each day in the United States because people are unaware of the problems they can create. Death, illness, contaminated food products, industrial and chemical products rendered useless are some of the consequences of such connections.
Building Resilience: Washington's Cross-Connection Control Program
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Office of Drinking Water is responsible for administering the cross connection control rules for Group A Public Water Supplies, such as the city’s, under the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) section 246-290-490. Washington established cross connection control reduction programs in 1970. The purpose is to protect the public water system from contamination via cross connections of plumbing systems. The DOH and public water utilities within Washington State have worked collaboratively to revise our codes and program priorities as we learn more about the dangers of cross connections as they apply to public and private plumbing systems. As a result, the city is required to develop and implement a Cross Connection Control Program which must be included in the our Water System Plan. The provisions establishing its cross connection program are codified at BCC 24.02.190, and were adopted in 2010 (Ordinance No. 5693). The ordinance includes the state’s program requirements and the most recent version of the Uniform Plumbing Code, and is enforceable consistent with BCC 24.02.280.
Visualizing the Risk: The Journey of Contaminants through Backflow
The diagram below shows how contaminants can enter the drinking water system without backflow device protections.
Annual backflow test requirement
State law requires all properties with cross-connections - systems connected to the public drinking water system - to install a backflow device and test it annually. This ensures it continues to function properly to protect the drinking water supply.
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Backflow Testing Companies
The City provides a list of backflow testing companies for your convenience.
Translated Backflow Testing Notification Letter中文 | 한국어 | Русский | Español | Tiếng Việt
- City of Bellevue Cross Connection Control Program
- Backflow Test Form (new or replacement assemblies only)
- Cross Connection Control, Washington State Administrative Code 246-290-490
- Prevalence of Cross-Connections in Household Plumbing
- Summary of Backflow Incidents, Fourth Edition December 1995
- Washington State Department of Health Cross Connection Control
- Foundation for Cross Connection Control and Hydraulic Research
- American Backflow Prevention Association
- United States Environmental Protection Agency Cross Connection Control Manual