This is for all the Irrigators out there that like to install Double Checks Below Grade.
I was called out today by a home owner that was concerned about her family's drinking water. I asked if the city had required her to get her backflow preventer inspected. She said No, I have some health issues and had some lab work done. The medical group suggested, I get my water and environmental areas (home) checked out for possible causes of my issues.
I was excited to start the test to see if my visit could help explain what her family had been dealing with for a couple of years. Maybe not 100 percent of the issues, but perhaps a small contribution to help this family move forward to better health.
So, I started to get my knee pads and set up to test a wet DC below grade in a partially submerged valve box that did not have enough space on the right side to clear the handles on the shut off valves.
I used my Meter key to get the strength on the valve handles to conduct the test.
As, I unthreaded the loosely fitting plastic caps covering the test cocks, I noticed water streaming out the test cock 3. I had the home owners watching me as they were very interested in the results of this inspection. It was personal to them.
I said uh oh, that's not good.
I explained that having the backflow preventer in the ground partially submerged in water with open test cocks could result in their family drinking 💩 poo water. The customer said, there is no poo in the water.
I said, well there is some dog poop over there. After a rain, poop mixed with fertilizer, pesticides, etc. will accumulate in the valve box where your open mainline (DC with out properly closed and sealed test cocks) can enter the domestic water to your house. If you believe in gravity and or siphonage, then you understand how this can happen.
They were shocked, and yet not surprised.
I went on to test the rest of the backflow preventer and it passed.
I carefully closed all the test cocks 2, 3, and 4. But before leaving it for good 👍, I thought, I better check test cock 1. Yes, it has also been partially open/closed. This test cock was a direct opening to the mainline without even the protection of the 1 pound spring on the DC to help protect the water supply from poop and whatever else was causing the families health issues.
They had hoped that they could recover from these health problems, and that it was not too late for them.
They did not disclose what their health issues were, and I did not want to pry.
So what's the take away.
If you are an irrigator and installing double checks below grade, I strongly encourage you to get these inspected by a testing company that you can trust to conduct a good inspection with gauges and everything. I would even try to watch the Inspection to ensure that everything looks right.
This backflow preventer had never been inspected and the test cocks were just like they came from the factory, not closed.
If you don't get them inspected, you could be getting a phone call from a customer that has been dealing with family health issues for 2 years pointing her finger at you.
She will ask you, Why didn't you get it tested?
It's the Law.
It's the the right thing to do.
Another take away,
None of this would have happened if the backflow preventer was installed above grade.
None of this would have happened if it had been inspected as required by code, law, and license requirements.