Backflow Valve Controversy

 

Four Types of Backflow Valves:

There are a number of backflow prevention devices that keep polluted water from one home from flowing backwards into the street line where it can contaminate the whole neighborhood. There are four main ones.  

Vacuum Breaker

The first device is a Vacuum Breaker, which should be installed on every outside faucet, on every home. They keep water from being sucked back through a garden hose from a swimming pool, child's pool, bucket, puddle, etc. They are available down at Home Depot for $4.33 in the plumbing section.

To install a Vacuum Breaker, first unscrew the set-screw far enough to clear the threads on the faucet - but not so far that it falls out. Screw the Vacuum Breaker onto the faucet. If it doesn't seem to want to go on, loosen the set-screw a little more. Tighten the set-screw against the threads so that it won't come off in the future. Reattach the garden hose.

These are installed on all the outside faucets of all new homes. Unfortunately, home owners often take them off. When you turn off the faucet after using a hose, there is gush of water out the bottom as it drops the pressure in the hose. The water splashes on your shoes. Oh, drat! So, off comes the vacuum breaker. To view one company's spec sheet for Vacuum Breakers, click here.
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Pressure Vacuum Breaker

The second device is a Pressure Vacuum Breaker. It is specifically designed for use on irrigation systems that use County water, not a pump, for irrigation.

All of the new homes down in the Renaissance section have them. They are mounted up near the homes on two PVC pipes. Let's hope there isn't a hard freeze that will burst those pipes. To view one company's spec sheet for Pressure Vacuum Breakers, click here.
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Dual Check Valve Meter

Most of the water meters installed in Hillsborough County and Sun City Center are Neptune T-10 meters. Click here for the spec sheet. They do not have a check valve built into them.

However, the County is testing the Neptune Double-Check T-10 meter in several areas of the county. Click here for the spec sheet. The combined meter/valve is much more expensive than a separate meter and a separate valve. But it seems like its use would alleviate the need for the $600 valve that we're being forced to buy.
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Reduced Pressure Zone Backflow Preventer Valve (RPZ Valve)

The fourth device is a Reduced Pressure Zone Backflow Preventer Valve (RPZ Valve). This is what millions of us here in Florida will be forced to install, even though we have done nothing wrong!

Notice the four test nipples on top that terrorists, vandals and disgruntled people can use to inject lethal chemicals and biotoxins into a neighborhood's drinking water supply.

This type of valve is supposed to be more dependable than a dual-check valve when it is working properly. Unfortunately, it has a number of moving parts, like springs and pistons, which can fail. Which is why they need a yearly inspection. It is mounted above the ground and right next to the water meter which is probably on the property line between your lawn and the sidewalk. This is what the $600 valves look like in front of a couple of recently built homes in Apollo Beach.

These valves are above ground and in an exposed location at the front of your lawn. They will probably burst when we get our next hard freeze. Thieves love the valves because they are easy to steal. They weigh 15 pounds. Their high brass and copper content will fetch $22.50 (brass at $1.50 per lb.) to $39.30 (copper at $2.62 per lb.) at the scrap yard.

To view one company's spec sheet for a Reduced Pressure Zone Backflow Preventer Valve, click here.
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Reclaimed Water:

Hillsborough County has reclaimed water available in some areas. I don't know how the procedures work in other parts of Florida.

If you're using reclaimed water for irrigation, the situation is slightly different. Reclaimed water is treated water from a sewage plant, like the one just west of Interstate 75. Reclaimed water has living, but hopefully benign, organisms in it. About 14,000 homes in Hillsborough have the luxury of having reclaimed water available to them. It's very cheap water and there are no pumps to maintain. Sun City Center has several home owners associations that use it. It is also used to irrigate the 674 median strip and the golf courses, to some extent.

It is illegal to tap into a reclaimed water line for your own use, like an outside faucet for watering or washing the car. The reasoning behind that is that a grandchild may be visiting, playing outside and take a drink from the faucet. Yuk!

If you're using reclaimed water for irrigation, the valve should already have been installed as part of your being allowed to use the reclaimed water.

The good news is that if reclaimed water is involved, the County will install the check valve for a small fee. If you use reclaimed water, you can ask the County to inspect to see if a valve has been installed. (Call the Water Department to arrange for an inspection.) If no check valve was installed by the previous owner, you have to make an application and the Water Department will then come out and install the valve for you. They will charge for installing the valve. The valve that they install is a double check valve. It may only be used with reclaimed water. It is sensitive to sediment, like rocks and sand in water. Presumably, reclaimed water is cleaner than water from a lake or well. A double check valve is relatively inexpensive compared to the valve that we're being forced to buy.


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