Don’t Read This While Eating!
What we call plumbing can be broadly defined as bringing fresh water into your home and sending dirty water out. Sounds pretty simple, but every so often a cross-connection or a backflow incident can occur that makes for a yucky cocktail.
Sorry, it’s nothing to joke about. At the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair 98 persons died of dysentery and hundreds more took ill due to a cross-connection between water supply and waste lines at a downtown hotel. That’s how serious the problem can get.
Pressure fluctuations are the main cause of backflow incidents. Normally your household water supply is under 35-40 pounds per square inch of pressure. Various situations can cause that pressure to drop – a water main break in your neighborhood, a power failure, fire fighters battling a nearby blaze, etc. A sudden pressure drop can cause water to flow backward in the system and come in contact with waste water from drain lines.
Do you have one of those plastic backyard kiddie pools that you fill with a garden hose? That’s okay, as long as you don’t leave the hose in the pool. One of the most common ways for backflow to occur is when a garden hose gets submerged in polluted or contaminated water. If pressure drops, the water in the hose could be sucked back into the pipes connected to your drinking water. This could be very dangerous if you use your garden hose to spray lawn fertilizer or weed killer. Household cleaning products and the soapy water from your laundry tub also could be hazardous if swallowed, as could pool or tub water filled with bacteria.
The simplest way to eliminate this hazard is to always leave an air gap between hoses and standing water. Never submerge a hose in a tub of water or swimming pool.
For additional protection, we recommend some simple mechanical backflow prevention devices. For instance, be sure you have high-quality anti-siphon toilet float valves installed in all the toilets in your home. Many of the cheap float valves sold at local hardware stores and home centers do not have sufficient anti-siphon capability. Dutton’s plumbers install only professional-caliber products that protect your health and safety.
Another simple type of backflow preventer is an atmospheric vacuum breaker. Ask our plumber to make sure you have a hose bib vacuum breaker where you attach your garden hose. Never use spray attachments with your garden hose without such a device. Lawn chemicals are extremely toxic and can even be fatal.
If your home has an underground lawn sprinkling system, more sophisticated means of backflow prevention are called for in conjunction with the pipes feeding this system. These devices include pressure-type vacuum breakers, double check valve assemblies and reduced pressure principle backflow preventers. Without this type of protection, contaminants can enter your water supply through the sprinkler heads in your lawn.
Plumbing may seem simple but it involves a reckoning with the laws of physics. Our plumbers are trained and licensed to deal with issues that impact the health and safety of your family. When in doubt, give Dutton Plumbing a call.
Sincerely, Your Friendly Plumber