Water staff working to prevent backflows, contaminants

The Currituck County Water Department is beginning a prevention program to help prevent backflows within the drinking water system and keep out contaminants that may enter the system through cross connections. Currituck County includes backflow and cross connection regulations within the county ordinance and staff is attempting to be proactive in preventing problems that could affect the drinking water for county residents.

A new employee, Charles “Chas” Sawyer, has been hired as the Water Department’s Backflow Cross Connection ORC (Operator in responsible charge). Sawyer has more than 10 years experience in municipal water systems and will play a key role in this prevention program.

As the ORC, Sawyer will enforce the rules, regulations, and ordinances set by the Environmental Protection Agency, North Carolina Division of Water Resources, North Carolina plumbing code, and Currituck County. He will inspect facilities connected to the system and assess any potential for pollutants or contaminants entering the water system. Some facilities may already have approved backflow devices installed, and Sawyer will ensure that all existing devices are tested and maintained by certified individuals.

Backflow is the reversal of the flow of water due to a change in the water system. The most common backflow incidents occur during events such as breaks to water main pipes, which causes the water system to lose pressure. Some backflow incidents may also be caused by back pressure, which occurs when the pressure on the customer’s water supply is greater than that of the water system supplying the water. Back pressure may be caused by things such as booster pumps or boilers.

A cross connection is an actual or potential connection between a potable water supply and a potential source of pollution or contamination. For example, a garden hose placed in a bucket of soapy water as you get ready to wash your vehicle is a temporary cross connection. Examples of permanent cross connections are the water supply to a boiler used to heat a building and irrigation systems for your lawn.

Sawyer will visit businesses and county facilities to work with people on understanding backflow and cross connections while performing inspections to ensure that up-to-date backflow preventers are in place and have been properly inspected. Currituck County’s hope is that with the public’s help, we can prevent backflows and cross connections from occurring in the drinking water system.  If anyone has questions, please contact the Water Department at 252-232-2769.