Backflow and the community
Backflow prevention is a priority for local councils to protect residents from possible cross contamination. Peter McLennan explains.
The water systems are extensive in hospitals and are regarded as high-hazard connections in respect to the potential dangers from cross connections between drinking and non-drinking water piping systems. Often through error or misunderstanding, the drinking water in a hospital can be connected to sources of contamination.
The recent opening of the new Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital at Kawana on the Sunshine Coast, QLD, was an opportune time for the local council to implement its backﬂow management program and to use the exercise as a community education tool in explaining backﬂow and backﬂow prevention.
The Sunshine Coast Council has a progressive policy developed and implemented the installation and testing of backﬂow devices in the Sunshine Coast Council area of operation.
The Council is the regulator for plumbing and drainage within its local authority boundaries and is responsible for inspecting all plumbing and drainage work in its area of operation including some 11,000 backﬂow prevention devices. This area ranges from Peregian Beach in the north down to Coochin Creek in the south.
Backﬂow prevention has always been a priority for Sunshine Coast Council, to maintain the integrity of the drinking water supply and enforcement of non-complaint work according to the Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA), the Plumbing and Drainage Act (PDA), and Standard Plumbing and Drainage Regulation (SPDR) Queensland Development Code (QDC), and the Queensland Waste Water Code (QPWC).
Sunshine Coast Council’s dedicated backﬂow prevention program began in 2008; however, the backﬂow program had been in operation long before then when the local authority came under the governance of the Caloundra City Council.
The aim is to identify companies with existing and potential non-conforming, hazardous backﬂow prevention devices as well as properties needing devices to be installed to prevent cross connections within their properties. The program has continued to evolve.
The importance of backﬂow containment zones and individual protection has become more relevant as regulatory requirements have changed, with recognised on-site cross connection risks from alternative water supplies, chemical production, trade waste operations, burst water mains and irrigation systems. Just to name a few.
The Sunshine Coast Council’s Backﬂow Management Strategy recognises these risks and has developed objectives, operating principles, and an evolving management system informed by consultation and improvements in technology. This consultation has been with clients throughout its operating areas as implementation will have signiﬁcant impact throughout the region. The consultation included discussions with relevant industry groups, associations including hydraulic engineers, major and minor plumbing businesses.
The new Sunshine Coast University hospital mentioned above is a good example of how backﬂow prevention devices are used to safeguard the drinking water supply. This protection is for both people inside the hospital and the rest of community and protects from potential sources of contamination. Inside the hospital there are more than 400 backﬂow prevention devices protecting the drinking water supply from a range of contamination sources:
- Blood contamination form dialyses and mortuary processes.
- Contamination from cleaning bedpans and other biological wastes.
- Chemical contamination from cleaning products for cleaners sinks and commercial dishwashers.
- Bacterial contamination from food preparation areas.
- General contamination from sources such as rubbish bin washdown.
Protection of internal plumbing is called individual and zone protection and protects the drinking water inside the hospital so that all draw-oﬀ points intended for drinking water can be relied upon to be the source of clean drinking water.
The hospital also has measures to prevent any contamination from ﬂowing back into the public water supply system and eﬀecting the rest of the community.
This type of protection is called containment protection and for this protection 2x150mm backﬂow prevention devices have been installed.
As part of the Sunshine Coast Council’s community education strategy, they have produced a number of short video presentations aimed at breaking down the mystery around backﬂow prevention. These videos cover topics related to why backﬂow devices are needed and how they are managed by Council. There is also one on the hospital discussed above.