Cross-control ordinance goes before council Monday

Grangeville City Council will meet Monday, Feb. 4 at city hall to discuss a process for protecting and testing the municipal water system.

GRANGEVILLE – In the works since last fall, a cross-control check program goes before the Grangeville City Council next week to establish a process of protections and testing for the municipal water system.

The policy will require backflow devices for customers where the potential exists for low-pressure situations resulting in cross contamination into the city water system. While state plumbing code currently requires such devices in construction, new with this policy is requiring their annual testing and reporting results to the city.

If an ordinance is adopted at the Feb. 4 meeting, the city plans an information campaign starting with area plumbers and contractors, followed by an open house for citizens to attend and ask questions. Implementation is set to begin in spring, gradually expanding to have the program in full force ideally by 2021.

“We realize this will be a cost to the public,” said public works director Bob Mager, “but this isn’t one of those useless things you’re required to pay for.” The protections and monitoring set in place, he said, will protect contamination of the city’s drinking water, and in turn protect consumers.

So, who is this going to impact? First off, those with underground sprinkler systems; that is this year’s goal. Expect a visit from city public works crews, who will be checking these for whether devices are warranted and developing a list that will be part of an eventual inventory of those to be contacted annually for requiring inspections.

Mager said there is a substantial number of sprinkler systems in town, and they will need to get through those, as well as inspect and test the city’s own irrigation infrastructure. The following year will be expanded to businesses, and working with plumbers to add to the monitoring inventory.

“We can’t do it all at once. We’ll overwhelm ourselves, and it will almost be a failure,” Mager said, explaining the process to the city council at its Jan. 23 meeting.

“Not everybody is going to be affected,” Mager clarified, just those with cross-connected systems that have the potential to backflow into the city system.

A few examples: Homeowners who live in low-pressure zones, those who have a pressure tank, or use a boiler for heating, or a swimming pool, businesses with fire sprinkler systems. Other affected entities include restaurants, Syringa Hospital, and large apartment complexes.

Questions? Mager suggests calling city hall, 208-983-2851, or going to the city website ( that will have the policy and details about the program. As well, city staff will be on hand to answer questions at the open house, date to be announced shortly. Local plumbers will have information on costs for cross-control devices and installation. The city is also working to find and develop a list of cross-control device inspectors for customers to choose from.

Motivating this implementation and monitoring program is the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. The Idaho Rules for Public Drinking Water Systems establish the responsibility of the water purveyor in protecting its system against contamination and pollution, and to implement and enforce a cross-control program.

Mager explained this regulation has been in effect since at least the 1990s; however, the city has relied on state plumbing codes requiring cross-connection devices in new construction, and not formalized city rules for devices due to the cost impact this would have on system users. A DEQ city well inspection last fall brought the matter to the forefront with direction the city establishes a program as per the rule.

So, what’s the penalty for failure to test? Mager explained if the city does not receive device testing results, it can shut the service off and pull the meter. The alternative is the potential for an unprotected service siphoning back into the city water system and contaminating it.

Mager recognizes the costs of device installation and annual testing land on consumers to bear, and he knows there will be residents upset with this change. However, he continued, this program helps protect an essential city service, clean water, and “is the difference between living with boil orders and drinking water out of bottles, or turning on your tap any time you want.”

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