Commissioners Approve Backflow Ordinance!

The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners has unanimously approved a revised Backflow Valve Ordinance. It relieves thousands of homeowners, and some HOAís and Co-opís, who pump their lawn irrigation water from a pond or well from having to purchase and install and then annually test and maintain above ground backflow valves.

Background

On May 5, 2014, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection amended Section 62-555.360, Florida Administrative Code, and related sections to revise the backflow protection criteria applicable to Community Water Systems (CWS) such as Hillsborough County's. Amendments to the County's Cross Connection and Backflow Prevention Ordinance, Chapter 121 of Part B the County's Code of Ordinances and Laws, are required to comply with the amended rules and update the Ordinance. On July 16, 2014, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) authorized County staff to draft proposed amendments to the Ordinance. The revised Ordinance is required to be in place by December 31 of this year.

The revised Ordinance was prepared by Public Utilities and County Attorney staff in coordination with the County's Cross Connection, Backflow and Back-Siphonage Control Board and interested citizens. In May of this year, the Control Board unanimously approved the revised Ordinance for consideration by the BOCC. It was presented to the BOCC in October of 2015 at which time it was approved.

The New Ordinance

The gist of the new Ordinance is that the County will now be responsible for all residential backflow protection! An inexpensive but very reliable Dual Check valve will be installed by the County for those premises that pump their lawn irrigation water from a well or pond. It will be attached directly to the water meter which is already in the County's easement. All existing above ground backflow valves at HOA's, Co-opís and multi-home irrigation systems will be replaced with a Dual Check provided the service entry pipe has an inside diameter of two inches or less. The size of the pipe is indicated on the current backflow valve. The program will require a number of years to fully implement. Premises that use county water for lawn irrigation or that donít irrigate at all will not have a backflow preventer installed.

The full BOCC document can be accessed by clicking here. Using the numbers at top right, the Ordinance starts on page 20 and ends on page 41. The most important part of the Ordinance is the second row down on page 39 that reads: "Owned and Maintained by the County" and specifies a "DuC" (Dual Check) over at the right.

For the 3,000 to 4,000 homes that currently have above ground backflow valves installed down near the street, the County will remove them for free as a courtesy, if given permission by the homeowner, at the same time that they install the new Dual Check attached to the water meter. The County has promised to make the change-outs of existing above ground backflow valves a priority by utilizing ďan expeditious removal schedule" to ďdecommission the devices as soon as possibleĒ.

In the interim, it is no longer necessary to have an existing above ground backflow valve tested each year. And if between now and when the County comes around to change out the existing above ground backflow valve, it starts to drip water, note that the County has committed to move quickly to fix it. Depending on the circumstances, they will do this by probably removing it and changing out the water meter with one that has an attached Dual Check valve. If the problem occurs on a weekend and the leakage is substantial, the homeowner's plumber is permitted to remove the offending valve (without a permit) and replace it with a piece of connecting pipe to continue water service to the home until the County can do its thing.

The one caveat before the County does the meter/backflow valve change-out is that the home must have a pressure relief valve (in addition to the one on top of the water heater) or pressure tank. This is because a backflow valve will restrict the ebb-and-flow of house water to the mains in the street as the water heater goes through its heating cycle several times a day. The heating of the water in the tank causes the water to expand and increase pressure on the homeís water lines. However, the Plumbing Code now requires that when any water heater is replaced, a pressure relief valve or tank must be installed, which your plumber will do automatically. This is true for all homes, no matter the source of the lawn irrigation water.

The County is working on the procedure to schedule and streamline the installation of the Dual Check valves. Updates will be posted on this page as they become available.

Homeowners with an irrigation system whose water is supplied solely by the County will not get a Dual Check valve. But the Plumbing Code, not this Ordinance, requires that such a system must have a Pressure Vacuum Breaker on the irrigation line. This is a brass or plastic device standing about 2 feet above the ground next to home. It is maintained by the homeowner. If the irrigation system can feed chemicals to the lawn, the Plumbing Code requires your irrigation person to install additional features to prevent the chemicals from entering the homeís drinking water.

For non-residential customers, i.e. all other profit and non-profit enterprises including churches, daycare centers, soup kitchens, second-hand stores, etc, the County has likewise adopted the minimum state regulations, which require different kinds of valves depending on the nature of the enterprise. Seldom in the history of mankind has a government reduced the regulatory burden on its citizens, particularly in the area of plumbing matters! But that is exactly what this new Ordinance does.

Thank You

Many homeowners have lent their voice by way of emails and publically speaking out to revise the Ordinance. Thank you!

And, it is appreciated that early on, Commissioners Ronda Storms and Al Higginbotham also lent their support to revising the Ordinance. And more recently, Commissioner Stacy White facilitated two townhall meetings that allowed South Shore residents to discuss their backflow concerns with the Utilities Departmentís officials. Both meetings had packed audiences and had active participation by homeowners.

Also, the Observer News has provided valuable media coverage since the summer of 2007 with five investigative reports at the time by Melody Jameson and subsequent reporting by Penny Fletcher and Mitch Traphagen. This reporting by the Observer helped shape the new Ordinance!

Dave Brown
1805 Burlington Circle
Sun City Center, FL 33573-5219
Phone: (813) 634-6048

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