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Vol. 3 - Backflow Emergency Response: Setting Up & Maintaining A Program

SPB's Manual for a Backflow Emergency addresses and stresses the necessity of an immediate response in the least amount of time through preparation, training, identification, location, response, isolation and corrective action. Remember, it is the Water Purveyor who is responsible for achieving these tasks in the least amount of time. Emergency response for backflow is far different from EPA HAZMAT emergency response protocols. HAZMAT responds to known, identifiable products and/or conditions allowing analysis of potential impact to public health. Backflow emergency response on the other hand, predominantly becomes apparent after the fact through discovery because of illness & treatment or enlightened recognition of undesirable water quality, odor, color, clarity or taste due to a backflow event.

  • Why is this manual unique? Training institutions and trade organizations do not address Backflow Emergency Response. This manual provides the water purveyor the necessary tool in which to address this type of emergency. The SPB manual recognizes the need for appropriate and immediate response, based on limited information, to an existing health hazard discovered in a public water system.
  • Who can/should use this manual? Every water purveyor of a public water system in cooperation with local and state authorities can use this manual.
  • Content of the manual:
    • Sections 1 through 10. Section 1. Notification (how a backflow emergency is discovered/received), Section 2. Collecting Information (questions to ask), Section 3. Response (Contacting ERT members, degree of emergency, notifications, Section 4. Isolation, Section 5. Flushing, Section 6. Investigation, Section 7. Litigation & Insurance, Section 8. Corrective Action, Section 9. Preparation, Section 10. Appendices (list of agencies, causes of contamination).
    • What is Backflow Emergency Response? Backflow Emergency Response protocols parallel guidelines for emergency response to catastrophic natural disasters or chemical spills affecting the public water system. However, unlike the EPA HAZMAT or Civil Authority response protocols, it is the Water Purveyor who is charged by necessity and knowledge with the responsibility of isolating and correcting a public water system health hazard due to a backflow event in the least amount of time. Emergency response for backflow is far different from EPA HAZMAT or natural disaster emergency response protocols. Hazmat responds to spills of known, identifiable products and/or conditions allowing analysis of potential impact to public health. Natural disasters resulting in a loss of the public water system address biological contamination probability and potable water source replenishment only. Bacterial contamination is resolved through treatment, boil water notices, and flushing. The necessity of a Backflow Emergency Response becomes predominantly apparent after the fact. It is through discovery, because of illness & treatment or enlightened recognition of undesirable water quality, odor, color, clarity or taste, due to a backflow or injection event, that a contaminant has been introduction into the public water system. Boil Water Notices simply do not apply to a chemically contaminated public water system. Immediate/timely response, isolation, notification, flushing and testing are the only effective responses to protect the public from a contaminated public water system.

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