Lincoln Water System (LWS) customers are encouraged to complete a survey to help identify plumbing cross connections in their homes and businesses that could pose a hazard to the public water supply. The State requires all water utilities to conduct the survey every five years. Surveys have been mailed to customers in some parts of southeast Lincoln based on billing cycle. When the survey is received, it can also be completed online at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: plumbing survey).
Examples of potential cross connections in homes and businesses include private wells, automatic lawn irrigation systems, hoses submerged in a sink or container, swimming pools, hot tubs or other boiler-type heating systems. If the plumbing connection is not protected with a backflow device, contamination could enter the plumbing system and public water supply if the water system loses pressure. A loss of pressure can occur during a water main break or when large amounts of water are used to fight a fire.
"The self-inspection survey is very important in educating and informing water utility customers about the hazards of unprotected cross connections," said Doug Woodbeck, Field Services Manager for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. "Having a large majority of the water customers complete the survey is a fundamental element of a community's cross connection control program to protect public health."
Steve Owen, LWS Superintendent of Water Distribution, said that in the past, surveys were mailed to all customers as part of their water and sewer bill. "Five years ago, we had few surveys returned, and we think customers did not notice them in their bills," Owen said. "We hope that sending them out in a separate mailing will increase the number of surveys returned and help us better protect Lincoln's drinking water system." Owen said the survey takes less than five minutes to complete, and a postage paid return envelope is included in the mailing.
Owen said water utilities, plumbing codes, plumbing contractors and regulatory authorities have all practiced good backflow prevention for many years, and plumbing systems are normally installed in a safe manner by licensed contractors. Where needed, backflow devices are installed as part of Lincoln's Plumbing and Water Service Codes.
"A customer may alter a plumbing system or unknowingly add a source of contamination in their home or business that creates an unprotected cross connection," said Bob Siemsen, the City's Chief Plumbing Inspector. "The self-inspection survey can help identify these connections so that a proper backflow device can be installed. Each customer has a responsibility to keep their connection to the community water system safe for everyone."
Owen said commercial water customers have a higher potential for unprotected cross connections. LWS has licensed technicians who routinely inspect commercial properties for potential cross connections and ensure that proper backflow protection is installed, tested and operating. Owen said LWS relies heavily on the self-inspection process and return of surveys because it would be impractical to have staff inspect homes and smaller commercial properties.