BREWER, Maine — Homeowners must install water back-flow devices to help protect drinking water from contamination through cross-connections, and the April 30 installation deadline is fast approaching.
“It’s designed to make the water safer for everybody,” Mike Riley, Brewer Water Department superintendent, told city council members at their February meeting.
Cross-connections between water supplies and sources of contamination, such as fertilizer, can cause a significant threat to the public water supply, which is why the back-flow devices are required, he explained.
“It prevents flow from being siphoned back in” to the public water supply, Riley said. “It’s very important that we add these.”
The state’s internal plumbing rules require the back-flow prevention meters, and Brewer officials gave its 3,500 or so customers a year to comply with the law.
“We’re a little behind schedule,” Riley told councilors, because the department wanted to give residents plenty of time.
“Bangor gave their people 90 days and it caused a firestorm,” he said.
As the end of April approaches, residents are scrambling, Councilor Larry Doughty said. He asked during the council meeting whether the city could give residents an extension and was told by Riley that the city has a payment program for those having trouble affording the cost.
“It’s going to be $100 to $150 a whack, and it has to be done by April ,” Doughty said Saturday. “People are concerned. Money is pretty thin right now.”
The back-flow prevention devices are installed on the water line where it enters the house.
“The device is pretty inexpensive, 30 to 35 bucks, but it’s the labor that gets expensive,” Doughty said.
“In some circumstances, an exterior pressure tank” may be required, which would add $100 or so, Riley said.
Those who cannot afford to get the work done should call the water department about setting up a payment plan that would spread the cost of the installment over time and would add it to the customer’s water bill.
City Manager Steve Bost explained that the program is an “unfunded mandate from the state. They require us to implement it, but we don’t get any assistance” for residents to pay the costs.
Before heading out to the hardware store to buy a back-flow device, homeowners first should check to see whether they already have one on their water line, the water department’s website states.
“If you are unsure and would like help determining if you do or not, give us a call,” it states.
Residents who find they do not have a back-flow device and are mechanically capable may head to the store to purchase one and install it. Others can call a plumber to have the device install for them.
“Once you have it installed, either you or the plumber needs to send us the paperwork on the type of back-flow,” the city’s website states.
Those with questions may call Nelson Murphy, the city’s distribution foreman and cross-connection coordinator, at 989-4214.
In another water-related issue, Brewer Water Department also reduced the amount of fluoride added to the city’s drinking water by around 42 percent, Riley reported to city councilors earlier this month.