401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421

Mandate could hit Paonia businesses in pocketbook

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A Colorado safe drinking water program policy adopted in 2015 could result in one-time and annual costs for some commercial property owners serviced by the Paonia Water Department.

In response to the state's "Backflow Prevention and Cross-Connection Rule Implementation Policy," town trustees recently passed a resolution establishing "cross connection and backflow prevention" rules and regulations for businesses and multi-family units serviced by the water department. Based on Colorado Revised Statues and the Colorado Primary Drinking Water Regulations, the purpose of the resolution "is to protect the public water system from contaminants or pollutants" that could enter the town's distribution system by backflow from a customer's water supply through the service connection.

The state describes a cross connection as "any connection that could allow any water, fluid or gas such that the water quality could present an unacceptable health and/or safety risk to the public, to flow from any pipe, plumbing fixture, or a customer's water system into a public water system's distribution system or any other part of the public water system through backflow."

Passage of the resolution is the first step in backflow cross connection control, said Paonia Public Works Director Travis Loberg. Under the resolution, properties that are out of compliance will be required to install backflow prevention assemblies. Loberg said that out of the town's roughly 130 commercial accounts, "most will not have to comply," and some, including the local schools and the Paonia Care and Rehabilitation Center, are already in compliance.

Depending on the size of the service line and the type needed, backflow devices run between $100-$500. While property owners can install the units themselves, they must pass inspection by a certified backflow specialist, said Loberg.

Mayor Pro Tempore David Bradford, who also serves on the town Public Works, Utilities and Facilities committee, emphasized that "this is an unfunded state mandate," and costs will be passed on to water customers. "This is going to be difficult. This is not a pleasant thing," said Bradford.

According to the state website, Colorado.gov, there is no "grandfather clause" to the mandate, and multi-family properties of fewer than eight units may apply for an exemption.

The mandate does not currently apply to single family residences.

The non-compliance issue was revealed last October during a state inspection of the wastewater system, said Loberg. The resolution is "the first step" in addressing the regulations. It's more of a precaution, in that the town has not had any incidences of backflow contamination, said Loberg.

Under the resolution, the Public Works Department will have the authority to survey all connections within the distribution system to determine whether each connection is a cross-connection; to control all service connections that are cross-connections; and to collect all fees for the administration of the program.

To determine where the devices are needed, the town will conduct a survey this year. Once the survey is complete, all property owners whose businesses are out of compliance will be notified by mail and will have 120 days to comply with the resolution.

The town will also be required to complete annual surveys and submit to the Colorado Department of Health to ensure ongoing compliance. The only cost of the survey, said Loberg, is time and paperwork.

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