By Joe Trueblood, PE – Sheboygan Water Utility Superintendent
Wisconsin Administrative Code NR 810.15 requires every municipal water utility to implement a cross connection control program. First of all, what is a cross connection? In terms of water supply, a cross connection is any physical structure that can potentially cause contamination of the drinking water system by allowing a non-potable liquid to move into the piping of the drinking water system.
A classic example involves a slop sink in a basement. People often attach a short length of hose to the faucet outlet, and this hose dangles into the sink. If a user then fills the sink with soapy water, and the hose is in the water, a potential for cross connection exists. If the faucet is turned on, and by chance a pressure fluctuation occurs in the water system, soapy water could be sucked up into the faucet and piping of the home.
Another example is an outdoor hose spigot. People sometimes attach a lawn chemical sprayer to their outside faucet. As water moves past a chamber, it carries along the lawn chemical and directs it onto the lawn. However, if conditions are just right, the chemical could go in the opposite direction, moving into the home water pipes.
The Sheboygan Water Utility conducts residential cross connection inspections at the time of water meter replacement. To eliminate cross connections to outdoor hose and attached equipment, outside hose bibb vacuum breakers are provided at no cost. The Sheboygan Water Utility also provides educational materials every 3 years to reinforce the importance of avoiding cross connections. Call 920-459-3800 or visit sheboyganwater.org/water-quality/crossconnection for more information.
Industries have more elaborate process systems that tie into water pipes. These can involve a potential of a process liquid moving into the potable or drinking water system. Due to the complexity of industrial settings, the Sheboygan Water Utility hires a professional service to do its industrial and commercial cross connection inspections. These are done on a schedule dependent on the potential hazard level, but typically every 1 to 10 years. In 2017, 580 inspections were conducted. The City Plumbing Inspector also reviews new plumbing installations to avoid the creation of cross connections.
By working to eliminate cross connections, the Sheboygan Water Utility helps to ensure the safety of drinking water as it moves throughout the community. This philosophy of caring for our water also extends to promoting water conservation. Throughout the month of April, the City of Sheboygan and the Sheboygan Water Utility joined more than 4,800 cities across the United States to take part in the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation. It is estimated that together we’ve pledged to save 1,575,872,546 gallons of water. The small actions of individuals when multiplied across our combined population, make a significant difference in safeguarding our country’s water sustainability for generations to come.
The challenge, presented by the Wyland Foundation and Toyota, with support from the US EPA and the National League of Cities, addresses the growing importance of educating consumers about the many ways they use water. This friendly competition is between cities across the US to see who can be the most “water-wise.” Mayors nationwide challenged their residents to conserve water, energy, and other natural resources on behalf of their city through a series of informative, easy-to-use pledges on mywaterpledge.com.
The overall campaign is designed to save costs for consumers, save infrastructure and operating costs for cities, promote drought resiliency, and protect watersheds and ecosystems. Moreover, residents also learn about resources in their area to take their commitment of conservation even further, from regional water and energy resource issues, to cost-saving tips at home.
The participation of local residents allowed Sheboygan to reach 10th place in the percentage of residents who took the challenge in the 30,000-99,999 population category. Mayor Vandersteen and the Sheboygan Water Utility thank individuals who participated in the Water Challenge Pledge.