The Orange County Utilities Cross Connection Control Program
From Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson
If you are not a plumber or in the plumbing business, you may not be familiar with cross connections and the state law requirements for proper control programs. Cross connections can adversely impact a public drinking water system unless safeguards are in place.
Florida Administrative Code 62-555.360 prohibits the use of cross connections “…unless appropriate backflow protection is provided to prevent backflow through the cross-connection into the public water system”, in addition to several other requirements. Thus, it is important for residents to note that this program complies with state law. Some of the utilities that currently test, repair and replace backflow devices include the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC), Tampa, Hillsborough County, Clearwater, Deland, Port Orange, Collier County, Apopka, and St. Cloud. Orange County Utilities maintains one of the safest, highest quality drinking water systems in the nation for over 138,000 households and has had a Cross Connection Control Program in place for many years. Beginning in 2018, we will further protect our system from potential cross connections by updating the program. It is important for residents to understand cross connections and how they can affect the quality and safety of drinking water.
Orange County’s drinking water begins its journey primarily as rainwater that is filtered naturally through hundreds of feet of sand and rock. It eventually comes together beneath the County in a freshwater reservoir known as the Floridan Aquifer. The water is pumped from wells and treated at a plant where it is disinfected with chlorine.
Cross connections can happen when the public water supply system and potential sources of contamination or pollution are connected. Examples of these connections include: applying lawn chemicals with a garden hose; using an in-ground irrigation system without a backflow preventer; or industrial manufacturing connections to the potable water supply. Contamination could result in a health hazard that could lead to serious illness. The presence of a cross connection control program ensures the quality and safety of drinking water are not compromised by backflow as a result of an inadvertent cross connection.
Backflow is the undesirable reversal of non-drinkable fluids or other substances through a cross connection to the public drinking water system or to the consumer’s potable water system. This can make a public water system unusable or unsafe. All water suppliers have a responsibility to provide water that is safe to drink and must take precautions to protect the drinking water supply against backflow. Such efforts involve ensuring a backflow preventer is installed and maintained at the water service connection to each premise that poses a significant health hazard. Backflow preventers come in all shapes and sizes depending on use and application. These devices are usually located adjacent to a customer’s water meter.
Residential customers who use reclaimed water, have in-ground irrigation systems, have an onsite well and/or have dedicated fire lines are required to have a backflow preventer. As part of the updates to the Cross Connection Control Program, as presented in a work session in May 2017 and subsequently adopted by the Orange County Board of County Commissioners in August 2017 (as an updated County ordinance), Orange County Utilities residential customers no longer have to hire plumbers to test and maintain backflow devices. Instead, they can rely on Orange County Utilities to test, repair and replace the backflow preventers that keep contaminants from flowing into the drinking water system. Utility staff will ensure that the right device is matched with the proper use, at no additional charge.
Effective January 1, 2018, residential customers with backflow preventer devices will incur a $3 fee on their monthly water bills to cover this increased level of service; residential customers will no longer need to hire a plumber for a $75 fee. For more information, residents can call 407-836-5515, email Water.Backflow@ocfl.net, or visit www.ocfl.net/CrossConnection.
Commercial customers are still required to test and maintain the backflow preventers on their properties and report the information to Orange County Utilities.