Water Quality for You and Your Neighbors

By Gerald Thomas, MAHC Board Member

Cross Connections
A cross connection is an arrangement of piping which could allow undesirable water, sewage, or chemical solutions to enter your drinking (potable) water system as a result of a backflow. Cross connections with potable piping systems as a result of backflow have resulted in numerous causes of illnesses and even death.

Historically, cross connections have been one of the most serious public health threats to a drinking water supply system, and many times are present in a residential system.

What Hazards Threaten the Homeowner?
Many common household uses for water poses a public health threat to the potable water supply system whether the home is supplied by municipal water or by a private well.

Principal areas of water use in the home pose a threat due to cross connections are:
· A hose connection to a chemical solution aspirator to feed lawn/shrub herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers;
· Lawn irrigation systems;
· Chemically treated heating systems;
· Water softeners;
· Hose connections to a water outlet or laundry tub;
· Swimming pools;
· Solar heating systems;
· Private non-potable water supplies;
· Non-code (siphon able) ball cock assemblies in toilets; and
· Water-operated sump drain devices.
This list of potential cross connection hazards is by no means complete. A private residence that has one or two of these situations is seriously jeopardizing its own potable water system and that of the community if it is served by a public water supply system.

What Can Be Done?
Homeowners as well as plant managers, business owners, administrators and school officials all must share the responsibility to protect the potable water piping systems from contamination through cross connections.

Each should contact either the water department or the local health department for assistance in locating and correcting cross connection hazards.

Residents supplied by private well sources must assume total control of their water system and safeguard it from contamination.

In many instances involving residential cross connections, the installation of a hose bib (faucet) vacuum breaker can prevent back siphon of contaminants and provide adequate protection of the homeowner’s water system and consequently, the utilities water system.

This means equipping each outside hose connection and hose connections in the basement and laundry room with a simple and inexpensive vacuum breaker. These devices can be obtained from hardware stores or plumbing supply stores for under $10 each.

In other instances, more elaborate devices may be necessary. For those situations, assistance in determining what device is appropriate may be needed.

For more information contact your local health department or your local water department in your community.

Remember it’s your water, let’s all do our part to protect it.