In­stal­la­tion timetable con­cerns raised

The Casket - - Wheels - AARON BESWICK THE CHRON­I­CLE HERALD com­mu­ni­

In the­ory, it’s a sim­ple check valve.

But in re­al­ity it can be a big bill.

Build­ing own­ers in Antigo­nish are find­ing that out as they re­ceive let­ters from the town threat­en­ing to cut off their wa­ter sup­plies if they don’t in­stall ‘back­flow preven­tion de­vices.’

And if you own a build­ing — even a home — that’s con­nected to a mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter sup­ply in Nova Sco­tia you may be ob­li­gated to have one of th­ese de­vices in­stalled.

“No owner, con­sumer, cus­tomer or other per­son … may al­low wa­ter, waste­water, or any other liq­uid, chem­i­cal or sub­stance, to ingress or egress the wa­ter sys­tem,” reads a long pas­sage that is copied be­tween the sched­ules of rules and reg­u­la­tions un­der which most of this province’s util­i­ties op­er­ate.

This spring, Antigo­nish started to en­force that rule (Num­ber 27 in its sched­ule) on own­ers of build­ings that con­tain sprin­kler systems.

“Antigo­nish is flat out retrofitting ev­ery­thing,” said Kevin Jones of At­lantic Back­flow Spe­cial­ists.

“They will be the first mu­nic­i­pal­ity I have ever heard of to force cus­tomers to retro­fit their sprin­kler systems.”

Let­ters were sent to the own­ers of build­ings con­tain­ing sprin­kler systems in Antigo­nish this spring warn­ing that they had three months to be­gin the in­stal­la­tion of a back­flow preven­tion de­vice.

The valves pre­vent wa­ter in a build­ing from drain­ing back into the drink­ing wa­ter sup­ply dur­ing a pres­sure dis­rup­tion – i.e. a drop in wa­ter pres­sure out­side the build­ing or an ac­ci­den­tal spike in pres­sure inside the build­ing.

“It’s not a cheap fix — from the sounds of it it could be in the tens of thou­sands of dol­lars,” said Lloyd Jewkes, one of the own­ers of the Five to a Dol­lar store on Main Street.

“We’re not say­ing it shouldn’t be put into code and prac­tice, the town’s con­cerns are le­git­i­mate, but what we’re say­ing is can we just take it one step at a time.”

The Five to a Dol­lar Store spent about $4,000 mak­ing im­prove­ments to their store’s sprin­kler sys­tem this spring. While do­ing that work they were not told about the re­quire­ment for a back­flow preven­tion de­vice.

The new valve comes with new is­sues — of­ten it will lower wa­ter pres­sure in the build­ing and can re­sult in the need for a re­design of an en­tire sprin­kler sys­tem.

“Or it might not af­fect it at all,” said Jones.

“But if you’re into a re­design of an en­tire sprin­kler sys­tem you could be into $60,000 or $70,000 be­fore it’s all said and done.”

Busi­nesses that didn’t re­spond to the July let­ter to say that they would be­gin the process of en­gi­neer­ing a fix were sent let­ters warn­ing that they could have their wa­ter cut off by the town.

The for­mer mayor and owner of the build­ing that houses Pizza De­light on Main Street, Carl Chisholm, is meeting with town staff later this week on be­half of a hand­ful of con­cerned lo­cal busi­ness peo­ple.

“What’s catch­ing peo­ple by sur­prise is the time frame the town wants the work done,” said Chisholm.

“We’re of the un­der­stand­ing that it has to be done, we just want a lit­tle more time to get it done.”

Chisholm like Jewkes, thought the town was only pass­ing down the re­quire­ments made by the Nova Sco­tia Util­ity and Re­view Board ap­proval of its new rates and reg­u­la­tions passed down last July.

But Paul Al­lan, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the pro­vin­cial reg­u­la­tor, said

Wed­nes­day that it is the util­i­ties them­selves that sub­mit their reg­u­la­tions to be ap­proved.

For its part, the town de­clined to pro­vide an in­ter­view on the is­sue and in a writ­ten re­sponse to Chron­i­cle Herald ques­tions said that the re­quire­ments for back­flow preven­tion come from the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment.

“The Town's pro­gram has been driven by the re­cent re­newal of their Per­mit to Op­er­ate a Wa­ter Util­ity from Nova Sco­tia Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment, which came into ef­fect on April 1, 2018,” reads the re­sponse.

Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment spokesman Bruce Nunn, mean­while, said the re­quire­ment for back­flow preven­tion doesn’t come from them. He said the province reg­u­lates the qual­ity of drink­ing wa­ter but its up to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to de­ter­mine how they reach that tar­get.

Who­ever came up with the re­quire­ment for the valve and the time­line the town is im­pos­ing on build­ing own­ers, their pres­ence is con­sid­ered a best prac­tice in wa­ter man­age­ment.

“Ab­so­lutely, it’s a good idea,” said An­drew Mackin­non, direc­tor of pub­lic works for the Town of Truro.

His town doesn’t have a re­quire­ment for back­flow de­vices but he an­tic­i­pates one will come when they re­new their per­mit to op­er­ate a wa­ter sup­ply sys­tem.

“Back­flow preven­tion should be even more of a con­cern in­ter­nally for a build­ing,” said Mackin­non.

“You could have a restau­rant us­ing wa­ter in the kitchen for food prep and have a jan­i­tors’ room be­hind it with a mop bucket or sink that’s full of wa­ter and chem­i­cals. If there is a hose running into that bucket and if neg­a­tive pres­sure hap­pens in the sys­tem that wa­ter and chem­i­cals could be drawn back into the drink­ing wa­ter. There’s all kinds of ways peo­ple can con­tam­i­nate them­selves.”

The Town of Antigo­nish’s writ­ten re­sponse said that be­cause sprin­kler systems hold large vol­umes of wa­ter that are not con­sid­ered safe for drink­ing, they have the po­ten­tial to con­tam­i­nate drink­ing wa­ter if sucked back into the reg­u­lar sup­ply.

“The Town has as­sessed and in­stalled back­flow pre­ven­ters on our prop­er­ties with since in­sti­tut­ing the pro­gram in July 2018,” reads the state­ment from the Town.

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