Backflow can and has affected water systems across the country, costing millions of dollars in mitigating the events. According to the EPA’s document titled “Potential Contamination Due to Cross-Connections and Backflow and the Associated Health Risks” on page 21 from 2002:
“The costs associated with backflow incidents depend on the nature and scope of the incident and the nature and extent of the response. Depending on these factors, costs could be incurred for public notification; the repair of damage to water distribution system infrastructure; investigation, sampling, and laboratory analysis; clean-up of structures and equipment; purchases of bottled water; responding to consumer complaints; lawsuits (both legal fees and judgments); the repair of property damage; replacement of spoiled food; missed work and school; loss of production; and medical expenses. Beyond actual costs, other losses could include leisure time and even mortality.
The ABPA (American Backflow Prevention Association) 1999 survey gathered information to estimate the costs water systems may incur to mitigate a backflow incident. The survey collected data from 25 water systems serving fewer than 10,000 people and from 103 systems serving 10,000 people or more. Survey results show that for the 92 systems that responded, water system operators expended an average of 494 hours per event mitigating backflow incidents. At $30 per hour (the average rate of technical labor reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2000)), that averages $14,800 per event. Eleven of these were significantly more time consuming than the others, averaging 3,683 hours and about $110,500 (at $30 per hour) per incident. Excluding these 11 most time-consuming incidents, operators expended an average of 60.8 hours per incident and $1,820 per incident”
Since the paper was written, we must account for inflation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $14,800 and $110,500 in 2000 would be almost $24,000 and $179,000 in 2022!
What is not necessarily detailed in the paper is the cost associated with properly inventorying these assemblies/managing a cross-connection control program BEFORE an incident occurs. Below are some scenarios we have experienced with clients before they decided to switch to BSI Online, which is a low cost solution to meet and exceed compliance for backflow and cross-connection control.
∙ They did not have an efficient backflow assembly inventory in place and did not know that facility was supposed to have a backflow assembly. A backflow incident occurred. They were fined by regulatory agencies.
∙ They did have a backflow assembly tracking system in place but at the time, their current provider did not provide them with a compliance report so they could see that facility was 2 years non-compliant on annual testing. A backflow incident occurred. They were fined and cited by their regulatory agency.
∙ They had a modern robust software program, but only 1 employee had access to the information because the program is installed only on their computer and not accessible from the cloud. A backflow incident occurred. They were fined and cited by their regulatory agency.
∙ They had an inventory system but did not have enough staff to implement the State requirement for inspections and mail surveys. They were cited by their regulatory agency.
The above scenarios cost each water purveyor only $495.00 annually with BSI, opposed to other solutions that cost thousands of dollars.
The data management, tracking, and notification aspect of cross-connection control is often a burden for municipalities to bear alone. BSI Online has over 500 municipal partners across the US and Canada. It is still your backflow program, we just help manage the clerical, administrative, and time-consuming, mundane data management tasks for you. BSI Online helps free up your time for value added activities such as inspections, surveys, water quality, and infrastructure concerns.
Do not let your backflow assembly inventory be the reason a backflow incident occurs and costs potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in time and budget mitigating a backflow issue. Contact BSI Online to assist you further with your annual tracking and compliance needs.
To our partners, both water purveyors and testers, currently using the BSI Online program, thank you for helping keep our water safe from the dangers of backflow and keeping an efficient and effective annual tracking/compliance program!
1.Potential Contamination Due to Cross-Connections and Backflow and the Associated Health Risks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water Standards and Risk Management Division