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Red-dye toilets create a teachable moment

An examiner from the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, Ed Rouse, demonstrates improper toilet plumbing installation and its consequences at a backflow demonstration in Corpus Christi May 17, 2017. Courtesy photo

Two toilets with red water in both the tanks and bowls sat on a tabletop under an awning at the city of Corpus Christi’s utility department. The toilets were part of an elaborate demonstration of the importance of backflow prevention held May 17.

Put on by the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, the demonstration was part of a city project to educate residents after a backflow incident at a nearby refinery created a four-day water crisis last December.

Ed Rouse, a TSBPE examiner, showed how a toilet overflow can contaminate a water system if the proper backflow prevention devices are not correctly installed and functioning. He also demonstrated how a backyard hose should spit a little when it’s shut off. If it doesn’t, contaminated water could get into the city’s water system.

“Conditions can generate in a system that can cause serious health and safety issues,” said Gene Delauro, a city building official.

Corpus Christi has been plagued with water issues over the past two years. Four major incidents have occurred, resulting in three different boil-water notices and the December incident when no one could use tap water for four days.

Two months after that incident, the City Council passed an amendment to an ordinance authorizing inspection of backflow devices using contractors. According to the ordinance, the city can then put the cost of non-compliant businesses on utility bills. Development Services estimates that about 1,000 commercial devices and 300 commercial fire system devices are not in compliance.

The next phase of the program will include residential backflow compliance, which was also included in the ordinance. New regulations state that commercial water customers must have backflow devices inspected once a year. Residential users must do so every three years.

To find out how to have your backflow devices inspected and tested, call the development services department at (361) 826-3054.

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