Schoolcraft Moving to Prevent Water Contaminations

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The Schoolcraft village council members in session in May from left to right: Faith Akert, clerk/treasurer; Kathy Mastenbrook, trustee; Sy Spears, trustee; Russell Barnes, trustee; Keith Gunnett, president; Mike Rochholz, trustee, John Stodola, trustee; Todd Carlin, trustee; Cheri Lutz, village manager.

By Brian Freiberger

The village of Schoolcraft in May took steps to prevent contamination of the village’s water system with tentative approval of a cross-connection control plan required by the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

The ordinance would require periodic inspections of village properties to ensure that contamination doesn’t enter the village water supply. It focuses on “high-hazard” businesses such as car washes and mechanical shops and restaurants but extends to all water users.

In May, 2016, the village contracted with HydroCorp for a three-year period to conduct cross-connection testing. HydroCorp is a cross-connection and backflow prevention company for communities and businesses across North America. The village is working with the company’s Troy, Mich. office.

The village plan was submitted to the DEQ from HydroCorp and was given to the Village Council in April. The final plan was submitted to the Council in early May, given tentative approval later in the month and was to be presented for final approval on June 5.

A cross-connection is any connection between a public water system or a consumer’s water system and a source containing non-potable water or other substances, making it possible for those substances to enter the water system.

Cross-connections have resulted in numerous cases of illness and death, according to the cross-connection pamphlet prepared by the state Department of Public Health.

Cross-connection controls aim at preventing two sources of contamination: “back-siphonage” and “backpressure backflow.” Back-siphonage results from a vacuum in a water system caused when system pressure drops so low that an attached pipe such as a garden hose or laundry tub hose can suck contaminated water or other liquids back into the water system. This can happen when there is a break in the water main or a heavy water use nearby such as fighting a fire. Back pressure backflow can occur from back pressure caused by a downstream pressure greater than that of the water supply which can push contaminated water back into the water system. Downstream pumps or boilers are sometimes causes of backflow.

Inspections for high hazard non-residential customers will be inspected in the first year. Other non-residential customers will be inspected in the second year. Ten percent of residential customers will be inspected yearly.

At homes, installation of a hose faucet vacuum breaker can prevent back-siphonage and provide protection of the homeowner’s and village’s systems. This means equipping each outside hose connection outside or in the basement or laundry room with a simple device costing less than $10 at a hardware store.

Questions concerning cross connection flow and backflow prevention can be directed to the Michigan Department of Public Health, Division of water supply at 517-335-9216, the Michigan Department of Labor’s plumbing division at 517-322-1804 or the village Water Department.

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