Go with the flow: Protecting potable water

Posted on 01. Sep, 2010 by in Academic Departments, Annual Report, Engineering Professional Development, Issues

EPD program directors

The Badger Mill Creek Cascade Aerator is an innovative project owned and operated by the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District and draws on treated water from the nine Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant. Constructed in 1998, the aerator helps to restore the natural balance of surface waters in the region. Photo: David Nevala.

Whether it’s in a residential, commercial or industrial facility, keeping drinking water

Ben Jordan

Ben Jordan

separate from waste- water seems as straightforward as Plumbing 101.

It turns out, however, that the process is anything but simple, and cross-connections, which could contaminate the potable water supply, can occur in a variety of ways. The engineers, plumbers, sprinkler fitters and maintenance people who annually test backflow-prevention assemblies, which can prevent cross-connections, must be certified.

Through the hands-on, five-day course, Cross-Connection Control and Backflow Prevention, the Department of Engineering Professional Development annually teaches nearly 100 people how to install, test and repair backflow-prevention assemblies and qualify for cross-connection control tester registration through the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. “We try to teach students why they’re testing backflow preventers, stressing the importance of their job in terms of protecting potable water, protecting public health and public safety,” says EPD Associate Faculty Associate Ben Jordan, program director for the course. “We don’t just go through the mechanics of, ‘You attach this hose to this part of the valve and read this dial.’ We work to have students come away from the course with an understanding of what is going on in the assembly and the piping system.”

Jordan also offers a three-day course, Cross-Connection Control Surveying, for plumbers, inspectors, cross-connection control testers, utility operators, and building and facility managers and engineers. The course builds on the students’ knowledge of cross-connection control and backflow prevention and gives them the tools to inspect entire buildings. “We teach them how to comprehensively and systematically walk through a building and trace pipes to identify cross-connection hazards,” says Jordan.

In addition to their classroom experience, students also visit boiler rooms, equipment rooms, kitchens and other areas where cross-connection contamination is possible. They learn how the instructor would conduct a cross-connection survey in these areas, then conduct their own surveys and present a report.

Jordan says that, in part, evolving state and federal regulations continue to create demand for the course. “The rules are changing and there’s more focus at the state level on doing these cross-connection control surveys,” he says. “We’ve tried to be out in front of these changes.”

While both courses center around compliance with Wisconsin regulations and training requirements, students from several other Midwest states also can attend and qualify for certification in their states.

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