The Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner's (WRC) Cross Connection Program is designed to prevent backflow or backsiphonage of contaminated water into the drinking water supply.
The WRC Cross Connection program has included commercial/industrial customers for many years and has recently been updated to include residential customers. This update occurred in response to changes in State regulations in an effort to better protect potable (drinking) water systems from potential contamination.
A cross connection is a link between a possible source of pollution and a potable water supply. A pollutant may enter the potable water system when a) the pressure of the pollution source exceeds the pressure of the potable water source or b) when a sudden loss of pressure occurs in the water system and "backsiphonage" occurs.
Some examples of potential sources of pollution from a residential customer are garden hoses, sprinkler systems, swimming pools, hot tubs, boiler systems and water assisted sump pumps. Based on their frequency of use, garden hoses create the greatest concern for cross connections in a residential setting. Several cases of pollution/contamination have been caused by misuse of the garden hose - hoses left submerged in swimming pools, attached to chemical sprayers and laying on the ground with exposure to cesspools, garden chemicals and animal feces.
Testing of backflow prevention devices must be completed by a Michigan state-certified tester (click here for a list of current Michigan State-certified Testers).
Why does Oakland County operate this program?
This program is run in accordance with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the State of Michigan Public Act 399, 1976 Rule #325.11401 through Rule #325.11407 of the Administrative Code. This program has been approved by the MDEQ and has been in effect in Oakland County since 1976. WRC is required to report to the State of Michigan annually on the status of testing and inspections at the businesses and homes that we serve. The program, initially focused on commercial and industrial facilities, was expanded in 2002 to include residential homes.
Why was my home selected for a cross connection inspection and not my neighbors?
State law mandates that the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner's Office perform cross connection inspections of its more than 36,000 residential water customers. Utilizing our State-approved program, WRC is required to begin inspecting by starting with homes that have known cross connections or high-hazard connections. Crews from our Water Maintenance Unit notify the Cross Connection Unit when they become aware of a known or potential cross connection problem. That's why your home may have been selected for an inspection when your neighbor’s did not. Eventually, the homes of all WRC residential customers will be inspected.
I just received a letter, what do I do now?
If you received a letter stating that you need cross connection/backflow prevention devices tested (click here for Device Test Form), then you need to hire a plumber that is certified in cross connection testing (click here for the list of Michigan State-certified Testers). You can call any Michigan state-certified plumber from this list or any Michigan plumber certified in backflow prevention. If you need additional help you may contact our office at 248-858-4991 or 248-858-5370.
Once the testing is completed and the forms are filled out, either you or the tester need to mail or fax (248-858-7939) the forms to our office.
If you received a letter stating that part of your system did not pass inspection, you need to arrange to have the violations corrected and the necessary devices fixed or installed. Once this is done, contact our office and notify us that you are ready for a re-inspection.
Can you give me some examples of cross connection occurrences?
Yes, the following are examples of documented cross connection occurrences:
October 1979 - Virginia - The highly toxic insecticide chlordane was back-siphoned into the water system. An extermination company employee had left one end of a garden hose in a barrel of diluted insecticide and the other connected to an external home hose bibb (outside spigot). When the water supply system pressure dropped due to repair work, the chlordane was sucked back through the house into the water system.
October 1991 - Southgate, Michigan - Residents found parasitical worms (nematodes) in their water after the atmospheric pressure breaker malfunctioned on a privately owned underground sprinkler system. During a water pressure drop, the vacuum in the system sucked some water from the sprinkler into the city water. The homeowner found worms swimming in the bathtub while filling it to bathe his child.
How often do residential devices need to be tested?
Residential customers are inspected by WRC every 5 years, and devices are tested at a minimum of every 5 years. Some devices may need to be tested more frequently.
Thank you for your cooperation! Remember, by working with us to protect the water quality, you will be protecting yourself, your family, and your neighbors.
Who is going to pay for this?
Inspections are performed by a WRC employee. At that time they determine if your site requires any new backflow prevention devices or changes to existing devices. Those inspections are included in your water rates. Any testing, repairs or installations of these devices are at the expense of the business or homeowner and typically require a licensed, certified plumber.