Cross-Connection & Backflow Prevention FAQs

1. What is backflow?

Backflow is a reversal of the flow of water from the normal direction. When backflow occurs, the water in your plumbing or irrigation system flows back through the meter and into the public water system’s distribution pipes.

2. What is a cross-connection?

A cross-connection is a DIRECT, INDIRECT, or POTENTIAL connection between Benton Water’s distribution system and another system of questionable quality.

3. What causes backflow?

Backflow may occur when there is a loss of system pressure or the customer’s water pressure increases above that of Benton Water’s distribution system.

Two types of backflow are BACK-SIPHONAGE and BACK-PRESSURE.

BACK-SIPHONAGE occurs when low or negative pressure on the supply side of the system causes the reversal of the normal flow of water. Back-siphonage may be caused on the supply side of the system when there is a break on a water main, during firefighting, or when a motorist hits a fire hydrant and causes damage.

BACK-PRESSURE occurs when the water pressure within the customer's plumbing system exceeds the pressure of the water utility’s distribution system. Backpressure may be caused by differences in elevation, a booster pump, or a chemical injection system.

4. What is the primary health risk?

The primary hazard associated with cross-connections is contaminated water being drawn back into the public water system. If consumed, the contaminated water can cause serious illness in humans.

5. How common is a backflow occurrence?

The Arkansas Department of Health has documented numerous cases of backflow on public water systems in the state. In documented incidents, serious illness almost always has been the result. In addition, backflow incidents are not always documented; therefore, it is unknown just how many illnesses occur and how often backflow incidents occur.

6. What can be done to protect public water system from cross-connections?

In 1995, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) amended Act 96 of 1913 (Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Public Water Systems) and mandated that all public water utilities institute a Cross-Connection Control Program. The intent of the program is to locate, identify, and eliminate, or protect against, all potential cross-connections. Customers found to have a cross-connection or a potential cross-connection must be isolated from the public water system. The City of Benton Ordinance # 7 of 1998 requires the installation of a Reduced Pressure Zone Assembly (RPZA) on all water services where a potential cross-connection may exist. RPZAs, unlike older non-testable devices such as swing check valves, dual check valves, and atmospheric vacuum breakers, are testable in place to assure proper operation. The ordinance also mandates that these devices are to be tested annually.

7. What type of device is needed for my level of hazard?

Benton Water Distribution requires the installation of an RPZA on the water service of all facilities that pose a potential hazard to the public water supply.

State regulations also require the protection of the public water system from the potential of backflow from Fire Sprinkler Systems. The installation of a Double Detector Check Valve Assembly (DDCVA) is adequate unless the Fire Sprinkler System has additives or a secondary water source is present. In this situation, we require the installation of an RPZA.

Underground Irrigation Systems pose a high health hazard and also require the installation of an RPZA.

8. What facilities typically have hazards that require an RPZA Assembly?

Air Conditioning Cooling Towers, Metal Plating Plants, Auto Repair, Paint & Body Shops, Medical Facilities, Beauty, Barbers & Nail Salons, Multi-water Services, Car & Truck Wash Facilities, Recycling Facilities, Commercial Laundries, Restricted Facilities, Facilities with Swimming Pools, Restaurants & Clubs, Farms & Agricultural Operations, Schools, Film Processing Laboratories, Sewer Plants, Food Processing Sites with Pumps, Funeral Homes Sites with Chemicals, Health Clubs & Spas, Tattoo & Piercing, Industrial & Manufacturing Testing Laboratories, Landfills & Dumps, Veterinarian & Kennels, Lawn Irrigation Systems, Zoos & Animal Shelters.

9. What are the installation requirements?

Only licensed plumbers may install assemblies. If the assembly is on a Fire Protection System, then only personnel licensed by the State of Arkansas and holding a Registered Mechanical Engineer license or employed by a company licensed by the Fire Protection Licensing Board may install assemblies. Otherwise the vent of the relief valve on the RPZA shall be between 12" and 30" above ground. Horizontal clearance shall be 30" between the assembly and an adjacent wall, 12" on the opposite side, 8" at each end, 6" above the highest point, and 12" underneath the assembly. Assemblies 3" or larger in diameter shall have adequate support and all installations must have a strainer and blow-off. An assembly cannot be mounted in a vertical position unless it specifically designed for this orientation.

10. Where must I locate the RPZA Assembly?

Installation of an RPZA other than a Fire Service must be above ground on the customer's side of the meter and before the first outlet or point of use. If the installation is inside a building, it must be in a location protected from freezing, provided there is adequate drainage for discharge.

11. How do I protect my assembly in freezing weather?

Permanent outdoor assemblies must be in an approved enclosure (American Society of Sanitary Engineering Standard 1060).

12. What are the requirements for testing the assembly?

The ADH mandates the testing of assemblies within 10 days of installation and annually thereafter which is the same standard set for in City of Benton Ord. #7 of 1998. The department requires the testing of assemblies on irrigation systems each spring or with placement back in service.

13. Who has authorization to test the assembly?

Only personnel with Assembly Tester Technician certification from the ADH may test backflow assemblies in the service area. Only personnel with a valid license from the Arkansas Fire Protection Licensing Board and the AHD may test assemblies on Fire Protection Systems. The Arkansas Department of Health and Backflow Prevention Association of Arkansas websites provide a list of testers.

In addition, a partial list of local certified testers is available at from the Benton Water Distribution Office.

14. Who is responsible for the cost of installation, testing, and maintenance?

Under the Arkansas State Plumbing Code, the homeowner has responsibility for all costs associated with the installation, testing, and maintenance of backflow assemblies on the customer’s premises. Backflow Prevention Assembly Test Form

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