This Fall, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection could require almost all Palm Beach county homeowners to install backflow prevention devices in front yards near the water meter. The cost per homeowner could be about $500 to a private contractor whom he or she selects.
In addition, homeowners would be
required to pay a licensed plumber roughly $60 every year to test the device.
If a homeowner does not have the test, water utility officials can suspend
The DEP cites “increasing concerns”
about water safety and potential contamination, especially in more-populated
South Florida, prompting further enforcement of regulations that have been on
the books for years.
Those opposed to the proposed
requirement call backflows “an unnecessary redundancy” that should have been
installed when the homes were built, and that “making people pay for this
during these tough economic times is crazy,” according toThe Palm
Meetings are being scheduled with local
and statewide utility, environmental and health representatives. The DEP, which
will make the final decision, expects to announce new requirements in October,
saysVan Hoofnagle, administrator for the agency's
drinking-water program. “It's an expensive form of protection," Hoofnagle
toldThe Palm Beach Post. “The system we have is not good
Private homes are protected by underground
valves, located next to the water meters, to prevent public drinking-water
contamination. The underground valves are not designed to be checked regularly,
so they are not tested annually by utility officials, saidHassan
Hadjimiry, director of the county water utilities department's
regulatory compliance division.
The proposed aboveground backflow
devices have ports that can be used to quickly check whether they are working.
All homes without backflow devices that use water from canals, wells or lakes
for irrigation would be required to install them. In unincorporated Palm Beach
County, about 150,000 homes, or about eight of 10, lack backflow devices. The
percentage of customers with backflow devices varies with the utility.
If the DEP enforces the regulations, the
devices will be required for new and existing homes. Countywide, aboveground
backflow devices are required for commercial and multifamily buildings. They
are much larger than the proposed residential backflow devices.
The backflow device prevents mixing of
drinking and treated water from flowing into the public water system by
maintaining a constant higher pressure in its pipes. Such contamination
required West Palm Beach water customers to boil water for 10 days in October
The DEP plans to hold at least one
meeting open to the public in July on the proposed installation of backflow
prevention devices. For information, call 850-245-8623, go online towww.dep.state.fl.usor e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.