By Reggie Connell, Editor
The Town of Apopka continued its information campaign on the interconnection program with additional details on its website and with a presentation to the town council at its 16th meeting.
“On March 9, we revised the Interconnection Guide to include frequently asked questions which were also posted on the website,” said Utilities Manager Deodat Budhu. “And, this guide was also included with the [mailed] utility billing.
On the first page of this guide is a section titled “Prevention of Reflux and What You Need to Know” and it says:
“In its ongoing efforts to protect your drinking water supply and in compliance with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) requirements, the City of Apopka has expanded its Intertie Monitoring Program. The order was approved by City Council in Dec. of 2021. This requires testing every two years, unless it is a dual-monitor device, which requires servicing every five years, for all residents with an irrigation system or anyone with a source of non-potable water on the property.
Due to the large number of tests to be performed, the FDEP has granted the city of Apopka a grace period, as long as you are on an official waiting list from a private company or the city. The Town of Apopka will work with the FDEP to meet obligations under Rule 62-555.360.
This program is intended to prevent potentially contaminated water from City customers from returning to the City’s drinking water supply through a “CROSS CONNECTION” (a physical connection between a drinking water supply and a non-potable water supply).
The program’s most important tool is the backflow preventer. This device is installed on your drinking water pipe between your home or business and the drinking water meter. Check valves come in many shapes and sizes depending on the use and application. The City’s Water Maintenance Department will help you determine which backflow preventer is right for your property and how often you should have it tested by a certified technician.
To view the guide, go here.
Budhu also informed Council that 1,886 calls from residents had been received by the City regarding the program.
Commissioner Doug Bankson was grateful for the presentation after receiving several emails and calls from residents about it.
“There’s just been a lot of confusion,” Bankson said. “I guess everyone [on Counci] received the same emails and concern. I just wanted to make sure there was clarity for people. It seemed that many of them felt that the City was responsible for maintaining the backflow preventer. And I want to make sure I understand that I’m explaining it correctly, that it’s something that’s part of the individual homeowner’s system when you have an irrigation system installed in their part of that system. So it belongs to the owner, not to the City. Is it correct?”
“That’s right,” Budhu said.
Bankson then confirmed several other questions he received from residents.
“I explained it in the sense that just like we have filters for air conditioning systems…and if for some reason they felt it might be harmful, and they mandated that we [the City] would remind them to check their own system. We don’t have that. But we do with the water because of the possible problem of siphoning a broken line. So basically it’s just our responsibility. And where we didn’t… what we missed… was just reminding them for their own good and their own health that they should test them periodically. Am I right?”
“You are right,” said Budhu.
“Okay, and that’s where some of that confusion lies,” Bankson said. “Because there was a feeling that because we didn’t maintain, and we were supposed to… that’s why people get these big bills. I tried to relay that. And so the best place for them to find this information I explained would be on the website, like you [Budhu] listed here.”
“That’s right,” Budhu said.
“Is there a way…to look at some of the systems that some of the others [municipalities] did, when they just went ahead and charged a monthly fee? Obviously, it would have to be higher to cover this system. Is this something we looked at? What are we considering? Are we just starting here and keeping it open? In case it doesn’t go well for us?”
“That’s a good question,” Budhu said. “Actually, we’re just going with the information we’ve given you. There’s no discussion that I know of for an alternative.”
But according to Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson, making everyone comply first would make more sense than changing the program along the way.
“The problem is that now that we’ve launched the program, we need to bring everyone into compliance,” he said. “Then if we want to take responsibility for the City on a monthly basis, we can do that. But for us to start in June when you’ve already replaced a third of the people, then it wouldn’t be fair for them to start with the $3 a month while the others did nothing and would get the $3 a month, so we have to wait to bring everyone into compliance.
“Would the $3 per month be charged to each owner or only to those with anti-reverse devices? Bankson asked.
“Anyone with an irrigation system,” said Paula Brown, Cross Connection coordinator for Apopka. “So it’s only billed [to those with backflow preventers] the additional $3 fee.”
“We just have to be able to protect them from people who are just not scrupulous in their business practices,” Bankson said. “So, you know, there are those who want… who prefer to do it for themselves. We want to keep that freedom for them, obviously. But then there are a lot of people who would say, ‘I would just rather the city And it pays off, and I don’t have to think about it. I’m just glad these things are starting to get cleared up. And you know, we had a short time to do the deployment. And there was some But I’m glad we have this on the website and hopefully others who may be watching tonight can better understand this and I’m still in favor of that other option if it becomes something more doable in the future.”
- To download a copy of the City’s February Backflow Prevention presentation, go here.
- To watch a video of the presentation, go here.
- For a list of certified reflux testers, go here.