Backflow Articles

Uniform Test Procedures Across the State

As most know in the backflow world there are approximately 50 different test procedures for Backflow Prevention Assemblies (BFPAs). They all vary somewhat and all basically evaluate, to some degree, if a BFPA is operating as it’s designed to.

This subject though is of particular concern for those enforcing a Backflow Prevention Program. It is critical that the test procedure being used is uniform across the state and/or area. There are multiple reasons for this.

One is the reporting on a test and maintenance report form is directly affected by the sequence of testing. This can be different and confusing for enforcement agencies and testers. The values being reported with one method and not with another results in an enforcement agency requesting readings, when there may not be a reading with the procedure being used by the tester. An example is the basic USC test procedure for the RP when testing the second check valve.

Additionally, training courses are already faced with the challenge of initial testers learning and trying to understand the testing procedure for each of the four assemblies. The same applies for the hands-on continuing education required by TCEQ.

There are national manuals that have varying test procedures, different from the Univ. of Southern California’s Foundation of Cross Connection Control and Hydraulic Research. As an example, the AWWA M-14 Manual has printed two procedures – one utilized in the NW section of the US and the other in New England. PHCC has different test procedures in their manual. ASSE has a publication with basically all test procedures printed.

Having been involved in enforcing a backflow prevention program for close to 30 years, I can tell you first hand the necessity to stay with one procedure as recommended by the American Water Works Association M-14 Cross Connection Control Manual. We have used USC’s in Texas for the past 35 years and consider it a must for all courses to teach the same test procedure and for enforcement agencies to be requesting the same type readings in the appropriate sequence, due to reporting, troubleshooting, etc. Enforcement agencies have to review and many times question testers on their readings, etc. The person enforcing the program generally knows one test procedure – USC, etc. – and therefore will question a tester’s procedure/knowledge based upon that procedure. We had a person in Houston a while back telling a facility that had a containment R/P, that the water did not have to be turned off to test the assembly with the test procedure he was using. What test procedure was this? Or was this a falsification? How is an enforcement agency to know if the tester is performing the procedure correctly? There is no known test procedure on an R/P that the water does not have to be turned off!

With other national organizations, e.g., PHCC, ASSE, AWWA, etc., developing manuals that can and are being used for testing courses – we must assure that every course, and organization in Texas (for example), is on the same page. USC was the first to establish recognized test procedures/standards many years ago. USC evaluates the test procedures in detail and is generally recognized as the industry leader.

Questions have been raised about various manuals and test procedures. Those that have enforced the testing portion of a viable backflow prevention program for any length of time, and speak backflow, soon realize how very important a single, uniform test procedure in an area is – as recommended by AWWA!

In Texas, it’s important we continue to assure courses and enforcement agencies are utilizing USC test procedures. If, in the future, a test procedure is thought to be better than that established by USC, then it should be reviewed and evaluated by an independent agency with the same detail analysis, for example that USC performs. There has never been a contamination event through an R/P that has been tested and maintained in accordance with USC test procedures.