CCCP -- Frequently Asked Questions
What is a drinking water cross connection?
A cross connection is an improper and illegal plumbing arrangement between a potable and non-potable water supply. This connection, under certain hydraulic conditions, can lead to a dangerous "backflow" from a contaminated water system to drinking water.
What is backflow and how does it occur?
Backflow is the flow of water or other substances through a cross connection into the distribution pipes of a potable water supply.
Backflow can occur when:
- Elevated pressure in the down stream piping system caused by pumping, elevation of piping, steam pressure or air pressure exceeds the pressure in the supply piping. This is called backpressure.
- Reduced or negative supply pressure is below atmospheric pressure. This is called backsiphonage. (For example, higher demand in the city's water distribution system due to a main break, firefighting or hydrant abuse.
Why is the City of Philadelphia concerned with improper cross connections?
The quality of Philadelphia's drinking water supply could be compromised if backflow from a non-potable supply containing hazardous substances occurs. The City of Philadelphia has Cross Connection Control Regulations to protect the public health and the integrity of its drinking water supply.
Who enforces the drinking water cross connection control regulations in Philadelphia?
The City's cross connection control enforcement program is administered jointly by the three Departments of Water, Licenses & Inspections (L&I) and Health. The Water Department maintains a policy of containment to protect the public water supply from cross connection hazards. Under this policy, any backflow occurring in a building will be prevented from contaminating the City's water mains. On the other hand, the Department of Public Health practices a policy of elimination to address cross connection problems within a facility's plumbing. L&I administers both Containment and Elimination policies through the permitting and inspection processes. The Departments of Water and Health also inspect and enforce their policies.
What is the Water Department's Containment Policy?
The Water Department's containment regulation, established in 1975 and revised in 1993, requires approved backflow prevention on all properties which have potential cross connections. This includes, but is not limited to, all commercial, industrial and government facilities, as well as large apartment buildings. The Water Department requires the installation of either mechanical devices or an air-gap separation at the meter connection.
Approved mechanical devices are:
- Reduced pressure zone assembly (RPZ)
- Double check valve assembly (DCV)
A list of City approved devices by manufacturer, model number and size is available from either the Water Department or L&I. Only City approved devices must be used.
The Water Department determines whether DCV or RPZ devices are required for a given application, based on the degree of hazard. Guidelines are established in PWD's Cross Connection Control Manual. In general, the Water Department requires the use of RPZ on the domestic service line in all applicable situations. Furthermore, the Department allows the use of DCV on all fire sprinkler service lines which do not contain antifreeze or other chemicals.
In brief, what are the City's Cross Connection Control Regulations?
The regulations require: The installation of a city approved backflow assembly at the domestic and fire service connection by a City certified backflow prevention device technician.
Testing of newly installed backflow assemblies before operation by a City certified backflow prevention device technician. Annual testing of each containment device and routine maintenance by a City certified backflow prevention device technician is required to ensure maximum operating performance.
What is the Backflow Testing Requirement?
In summary, the regulation requires: Testing of all newly installed containment devices (DCV and RPZ assemblies by a City certified backflow prevention device technician before operation.)
Testing of all devices on an annual basis by a City certified backflow prevention device technician or whenever failure is suspected. PWD is in the process of evaluating the annual requirement and will shortly determine whether this should be changed to a less frequent requirement.
Maintenance of devices, as needed, by a City certified backflow prevention device technician to ensure optimum-operating condition at all times.
Submission of all test results to the Philadelphia Water Department's Bureau of Laboratory Services.
Beginning in March of 2003, the Water Department will begin ensuring that the testing and maintenance of existing backflow assemblies are done on a regular basis.
Who offers a testing and certification program?
Currently, the New England Water Works Association (NEWWA) and American Society of Sanitary Engineering (ASSE), city and nationally recognized agencies, are offering training courses in Philadelphia to certify qualified individuals to become backflow prevention device technicians. Registration for this course is open to anyone.
However, if you are planning to be a certified backflow prevention device technician in the City of Philadelphia, you must be either a bona fide City licensed fire suppression contractor or registered master plumber. Those who do not meet the above requirement are required to work under the supervision of a certified, registered master plumber or a certified, licensed fire sprinkler suppression contractor.
How will the Cross Connection Control Regulations be enforced?
The Water Department and L&I will inform permit applicants and existing cross connection accounts of the testing and maintenance requirements and will furnish a list of all active Backflow Prevention Device Technicians who are authorized to perform the work.
Initial testing is enforced by L&I during the permit and as-built inspection process for new construction or modifications to existing plumbing structures. The Water Department enforces testing after the installation of the device in existing facilities.
Regular testing will be enforced by the Water Department as it reviews and updates existing accounts. The Water Department will also issue notices to accounts that do not comply with the cross connection regulations as a prelude to further enforcement action.
Is there more information available regarding the City's Cross Connection Control Regulations?
For immediate information, questions can be directed to the Water Department's Cross Connection Control Section at 685-1419 or 685-1420, or the L&I Office of Plumbing Services at 686-2449 or 686-2450, and the Fire Department at 686-2470 or 686-2471.