Hamilton County Public Health’s Division of Plumbing tracks backflow devices. The program works to identify all backflow devices within our jurisdiction, and to make sure they are tested annually.
For more information about your backflow device, obtaining a test sheet, finding a backflow tester/contractor, registering as a contractor, or making a payment. Please contact our customer service representatives at (513)-946-7830.
What is Backflow?
Backflow is the unintentional reversal of the normal direction of flow in a drinking water system that may result in pollution or contamination of the system by a liquid, gas, solid or mixture.
When backflow occurs, the water drawn back into your main water supply may be contaminated. This contaminated water remains in water lines until it is drained from another fixture in your home. A serious health hazard could result when this contaminated water is used for drinking, cooking or bathing.
Backflow Permits and Testing
When a backflow device is installed by a licensed plumber, a permit must be obtained. Every year thereafter, the device must be tested by a certified backflow tester. When it is time to have your backflow device tested each year, you will receive a reminder letter from the Health District.
The Backflow Test Sheet must be completed by the tester and filed in our office. There is a $25 annual fee that covers the cost for the Health District to track all backflow devices for Hamilton County in a computer database and on hard copy files for water purveyors and the EPA. The cost also covers the expense of mailing yearly reminder letters to our customers to have their devices tested, and we often have to send more than one letter to get a response.
Commercial & Residential Backflow
Inspectors survey commercial buildings (factories, hospitals and schools) for possible cross connections. This could potentially cause contamination of the potable (drinking) water supply. If problems are identified, staff work with building owners to eliminate cross connections or ensure proper installation of a backflow prevention device.
The residential component of this program also tracks and ensures that testable backflow devices on residential lawn irrigation systems are tested yearly.
Lawn Irrigation Systems
Lawn irrigation systems should be tested annually to ensure they are functioning properly. For example, if a backflow device attached to a lawn irrigation system malfunctions, animal excrement, pesticides, fertilizers and other harmful substances can be back-siphoned into a water supply. This contaminated water remains in water lines until drained from another source or fixture in the home. A serious health hazard can result when contaminated water is used for drinking, cooking or bathing. The Ohio Basic Plumbing Code requires all testable lawn irrigation backflow protection devices be tested yearly. If a lawn irrigation system waters your yard throughout the summer months, contact a plumber who is a certified backflow tester for your yearly check.
Installation & Testing
When installing and testing an A.S.S.E. (American Society of Sanitary Engineers) 1013 backflow device on your lawn irrigation system you need to consider that this backflow device is capable of discharging or “dumping” a large quantity of water through the relief port, which may cause damage to your home. This “dumping” may occur if a spring loaded check becomes fouled by debris or if a backflow event occurs.
We recommend that you locate this backflow device outside where no damage can occur. It will need to be “winterized” and not subjected to freezing temperatures. If your device is located inside your home we recommend you contact your plumber to properly pipe the discharge to a floor drain or laundry sink capable of handling this discharge, or have the device located outside to a place of safety where “dumping” of this device will not cause harm.
In 2003 a Hamilton County resident incurred $20,000 worth of damage when his backflow device “dumped” into his finished basement. This damage could have been averted if the relief port of the backflow device had been piped to a floor drain or laundry sink.
What is Backsiphonage?
Backsiphonage backflow is the reversal of the normal direction of flow in the piping due to a drop in supply pressure, a vacuum or a negative pressure in the supply piping.
Why should I be concerned?
Backflow and backsiphonage situations can be a health hazard for your family. When backflow occurs, the water drawn back into your main water supply may be contaminated. This contaminated water remains in water lines until it is drained from another fixture in your home. A serious health hazard could result when this contaminated water is used for drinking, cooking or bathing.
How can I prevent backflow or backsiphonage?
Eliminate cross connections to the drinking water supply or install a backflow device and have it tested annually. A backflow device protects drinking water from coming into contact with a questionable contaminant. When installed correctly and operating properly, it will prevent contaminants from entering the drinking water supply, even when low or negative pressure situations occur.
Any device that is mechanical is apt to fail and must be regularly tested. Backflow devices are required to be tested annually.
Certified backflow testers are listed in the phone book, and most plumbing and lawn irrigation companies employ a certified backflow tester. Always remember to get bids from at least three contractors before you pay someone to test your backflow device.
Backflow Scenarios & Prevention Tips
Scenario: Soapy water or other cleaning compounds are back siphoned into your water supply via a faucet or hose submerged in a bucket or laundry basin.
Prevention Tip: Install an American Society of Sanitary Engineers (ASSE) 1011 approved vacuum breaker that permits manual draining for freezing conditions.
Scenario: Fertilizers/pesticides are back siphoned into your water supply via a garden hose attached to a fertilizer/pesticide sprayer.
Prevention Tip: Install an ASSE 1011 approved vacuum breaker that permits manual drainage for freezing conditions on outside spigots.
Scenario: Toilet tank cleaner/dye (blue color) is back siphoned into your water supply via a refill valve or ballcock without anti-siphonage protection.
Prevention Tip: Use only “anti-siphonage” or “code approved” ballcock repair/replacement kit.
Scenario: Bacteria/chemicals/additives present in a boiler system are back-siphoned into the water supply.
Prevention Tip: Contact your plumber. You may need to have an ASSE 1013 or 1012 backflow device installed. Use only food grade or pharmacopolic chemicals or additives.
Scenario: Chemicals/pesticides/animal feces are drawn into your supply from a lawn irrigation system.
Prevention Tip: Contact your irrigation contractor/plumber. Lawn irrigation systems require a testable backflow device. These devices should be tested annually to ensure reliability.