Commitment to understanding the basics of backflow
Backflow is one of those things that you generally cannot see hence we go blindly through life blissfully unaware of the dangers lurking in the drinking water system, writes Peter McLennan.
Backﬂow prevention devices are everywhere but we may not be aware of them. For example most homes in Australia will have a dual check valve backﬂow prevention device installed in the residential water meter assembly. Many homes have hose connection vacuum breakers attached to garden taps and every toilet cistern has in-built air gap backﬂow protection to ensure the drinking water does not come in contact with non-drinking water. Backﬂow prevention devices protect against contamination of the drinking water caused by illegal or inadvertent cross connections between drinking water and sources of non-drinking water.
The level of protection necessary to all drinking water connections is laid out in the Plumbing Code of Australia which is part of the National Construction Code.
When a State or Territory calls up the National Construction Code in their plumbing regulations, unless otherwise stipulated, it makes the use of backﬂow preventers mandatory.
Making it mandatory through legislation is one thing but while there is no requirement for additional skills development for the plumbing industry we risk the fact that the public will be exposed to potential danger.
The Backﬂow Prevention Association of Australia Inc. (BPAA) is committed to improving the knowledge and understanding of backﬂow through seminars, events, conferences and workshops around Australia and resources on our website, www.bpaa.org.au.
Our national conference held in August, on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland saw around 100 industry professionals attend the 2 ½ day event which included a half day workshop for backﬂow contractors that focussed on building a better business plus refreshing their skills on testing and new standards.
Presentations were given by a range of industry speakers and included:
Shayne La Combre – chief executive oﬃcer, Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre (PICAC) and Chair, World Plumbing Council (WPC). Shayne oﬃcially opened the conference and his presentation provided many with a thought provoking message of where drinking water sat on a world scale and how the World Plumbing Council had developed the 4 Pillars Programme to improve education and understanding of plumbing internationally.
Bruce Hutton principal asset planning manager at SEQ Water gave an excellent overview of how they supply bulk water and the challenges they face with droughts, ﬂoods, aging technology and environmental implications that they encounter in getting the bulk water to the water supplier.
Ester Blest from the Service Trades Council Queensland and Assistant Commissioner for the Queensland Building & Construction Commission gave an insightful presentation on how the Services Trades Council in Queensland are implementing a raft of strategies for the Protection of the Service Trades.
Robert Dwyer, technical advisor backﬂow prevention, Central Highlands Water presented a valuable case study on the challenges faced by a regional water supplier. His presentation ‘Backﬂow in a Regional City’, took us through the steps required to set up and manage a successful backﬂow management programme and showed that it required a strategy that is supported from the managing director right through the organisation to the administration team.
Then on Saturday, Robert King from McKays Solicitors, covered an important aspect of any business with his presentation ‘Are you Kicking your Health and Safety Goals’. It highlighted the importance of managing your health and safety risks in a small business and what your responsibilities are under the current legislation. This paper had people’s eyes wide open as Robert’s delivery was built from real life experiences and pointed out how ignorance is not bliss if a safety infringement gets to the Magistrates or worse still, the Coroners Court.
The feedback from delegates indicated that the mix of topics and speakers provided real value to the conference and that the investment in time and money was worth every cent.
The conference was well supported by industry suppliers and a number of prizes were available for contractors on the day. Backﬂow test kits were donated by Emerson ValvCheq and Hydroﬂow Distributors Australia and these were won by Marc Wilson from Victoria and Grant Carr from Queensland. Congratulations to the winners.
Many thanks to all the sponsors and supporters involved in making the event a success.
They say knowledge is power, so whilst the understanding of backﬂow and backﬂow prevention is limited, the BPAA will continue to provide events and resources to raise the awareness and work toward safe drinking water for all.