Avoiding water contamination from industrial facilities, cross connection safeguards

Posted in: Municipal, Water

Industrial cross connection pipesCross connection events affecting water systems happen every day, but most are either undetected or not reported. Unfortunately, we only hear about them when people get sick or costly repairs are required.

A cross connection is created when drinking water piping connects to plumbing fixtures or water-using equipment. If the connection is improperly protected, then contamination can result when a backflow event occurs, allowing contaminates to reverse flow from the fixture and/or equipment back into the drinking water piping. Cross connections can be found in any water system regardless if the water customer is a residential, commercial or industrial.

Industrial facilities typically use water in ways beyond just potable water. The most common cross connections found in large industries are process water, equipment wash stations, drain lines, fill lines, hose connections, slop sinks and fire suppression systems.

With large facilities it is difficult to eliminate all potential cross connections. This leaves water suppliers in the unenviable position of developing the best method to protect their customers and the industrial facility’s employees. Cross connection protection leaves water suppliers with the option of either facility containment or isolation, or a combination of both.

Containment means restricting or holding contamination at the industrial facility’s water supply service line with the appropriate backflow preventer. A device is placed at the water meter and protects the community’s water supply from any hazard water from the Industrial facility may pose. However, this doesn’t protect the people working within the facility.

Isolation requires installation of backflow preventers on the business’ water supply line at every point of water use and/or water fixture. This isolates potentially harmful processed water from entering the facility’s potable water supply. The potential for hazard of a particular water fixture determines what type of backflow device that we would recommend. Isolation helps protect the employees in the facility, but not necessarily the water users in the communities. If a backflow event were to occur with only isolation measures in place, a hazard could be introduced into the community’s water supply putting water customers at risk.

If an industrial facility is large and/or poses a greater risk to the entire water system, water providers are requiring the business to have a combination of both containment and isolation measures in place. The water supplier will require that the facility install appropriate backflow device at the water meter to protect the entire water system from potential hazards, and protection at each point of use within the business. This protects their employees and the community that shares the same water supplier.

In addition to having containment or isolation systems in place, it’s important to inspect the industrial facility annually. This will help to insure the appropriate backflow device is connected at each water point of use. Regular inspects make sure safeguards for the facility’s employees and the community are in place.

It’s a teamwork between the industrial facility, the community and the water supplier to make sure the water we drink and use is safe. Have a plan. Install appropriate safeguards. Inspect regularly.

Casey Rose

About the Author

Casey Rose has worked in the wastewater industry for nearly 20 years with experience working for municipalities and consultant contract operations. Casey is well-known for his ability to build a strong relationships with each client and has a robust background in operations, safety, client communication, construction management and fiscal responsibility.

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