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This is a device that is installed to protect the potable (drinking) water supply by preventing reversal of flow from a possible source of contamination. There are several types of devices providing varying levels of protection.
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Backflow is a reversal of the normal direction of flow in a water system that may result in pollution or contamination of the water. A cross-connection is any arrangement whereby backflow can occur. It can be a temporary or permanent connection in the piping.
Ohio Administrative Code 3745-95 requires the county to protect the public water system from cross-connections and prevent backflow situations.
If a customer is found to have a potential or actual cross-connection contamination hazard, the customer will be required to eliminate the hazard and/or install an appropriate backflow prevention device at the plumbing's point of entry into the premises and/or at the hazard.
Ironically, the ordinary garden hose is the most frequent offender. A garden hose can be extremely hazardous when it is left submerged in swimming pools, utility tubs, soapy buckets, etc. Chemical sprayers attached to hoses for weed killing and fertilizing can also be a concern. Typically, if you don't want to drink it, don't connect your water system to it. However, backflow from hose bib cross-connections can usually be prevented by installing hose bib vacuum breakers that can be purchased at most hardware stores.
Other cross-connection examples include:
Backflow can be a health hazard if contaminated water is drawn back into your water supply's plumbing system and is used for drinking, cooking, or bathing. Furthermore, unprotected cross-connections with water supply plumbing or public drinking water piping systems are prohibited by law.