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Sprinkler system backflow suspected in E-coli contamination - KRISTV.com | Continuous News Coverage | Corpus Christi

Sprinkler system backflow suspected in E-coli contamination

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A backflow preventer keeps water from re-entering the city lines once it has already passed through. A backflow preventer keeps water from re-entering the city lines once it has already passed through.
CORPUS CHRISTI -

Corpus Christi utility crews continue working to pinpoint the source of the recent E-coli contamination, and much of their investigation is aimed at finding an absent or failing backflow prevention device on a sprinkler system in the Flour Bluff area.

The devices prevent water that enters private irrigation lines from re-entering the city's water lines and potentially leading to a contamination.

A backflow situation can come about when there is a sudden drain on water in a neighborhood, due to a pipe break or a house fire.

Without a working backflow preventer, water from a sink or bathtub or dirty irrigation line can easily be pulled back into the main lines.

John Holsonback of Hebert Irrigation in Flour bluff says his company constantly inspects these backflow preventers and finds old devices that don't work about once a week.

With hundreds of them spread across Flour Bluff alone, he agrees that it's highly possible that the recent E-coli contamination is due to a backflow preventer failure.

A few years ago, city leaders voted to only require these devices be inspected once every three years, instead of annually.

Holsonback thought it was a bad idea back then, and wonders if the recent contamination confirmed his fears.

He hopes that in light of the water crisis, the city will reconsider the inspection requirements.

"If we test them annually, we have approximately 20% fail rate.  If we test them every 3 years, we have a 30-40% fail rate.  So there is a greater number of devices failing due to them sitting longer," says Holsonback.

Any irrigation work does require a permit from the city, so utility crews should have an idea which properties are supposed to have a working backflow preventer.

However, if a homeowner attempts to install it on their own, or if a contractor cuts corners on the permitting on installation of a device, it could make it very difficult to pinpoint the source.

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