FAQ – Backflow (Cross Connection) Control Program

Frequently asked questions about WVWA’s Backflow (Cross Connection) Control Program


What is a Backflow (Cross Connection)?

Any pipe, valve, fixture, etc., in a drinking water plumbing system that may allow the drinking water within the system to become contaminated or questionable in quality. Backflow (Cross Connections) can either be eliminated or protected by an air gap or mechanical backflow preventer.


West View Water Authority, in accordance with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Allegheny County Health Department Division of Water and Plumbing, is required to identify and eliminate any backflow (cross-connections).


What is backflow?

Backflow is the undesirable reversal of the flow of water from its intended direction in any pipeline or plumbing system.  Backflow occurs as a result of a “cross connection” within the water system. A cross connection can occur when there is any actual or potential connection between a potable water system and another water source or system.


What is a backflow preventer?

Backflow preventers are mechanical plumbing devices installed in a plumbing system to prevent water from flowing backward in the system. A properly installed, tested and maintained backflow preventer assembly at the water service entrance to a building or property can reliably prevent a cross connection into the community water system.


Is it important to prevent backflow?

All water users benefit from an active, on-going cross connection control program that includes the installation of backflow preventer.  Maintaining the quality and safety of our water is of the utmost importance at West View Water Authority.  Pennsylvania requires all public water systems to operate an on-going program to protect the public water supply from contamination from possible cross connections. The most effective method for the water utility to meet this requirement is to require customers to install a backflow preventer on the main supply line to their property or facility, thus protecting the community water system from any cross connections that may be present inside the customer’s plumbing system.


The need for backflow(cross-connection) control exists in all types of premises, whether residential, commercial or industrial. Backflow prevention devices help protect public safety by preventing potable water contamination in such critical areas as municipal water systems, food processing plants, medical and dental water supplies, and many industrial applications.


Why does the customer have to pay for, install and maintain the backflow preventer assembly?

The backflow preventer assembly is installed to protect the public water supply against possible hazards in the customer’s plumbing system. The actual or potential cross connection belongs to the property owner and not to regulatory officials or the water utility. Once the water goes beyond the meter, water quality could be altered. The water utility does not want the water back, nor do the water customers want to purchase used water. If a backflow preventer is required to keep the water safe, then the person who created the cross connection (actual or potential) should purchase, install and maintain the backflow preventer as a condition of service.


What are the types of installation used by all plumbing contractors and certified testers?

As a condition of service, all new residential homes and renewals must be fitted with an appropriate backflow prevention device in accordance with the Rules and Regulations of the Authority.


An approved testable backflow prevention device must be installed on all, commercial, industrial, irrigation systems, fire suppression systems, residential apartment buildings which contain five or more individual units, are multi-leveled and are jointly metered residential, nonresidential service lines.  A service line providing water to a farm for any purpose other than the residence is also considered to be nonresidential and requires the installation of a backflow preventer device.


After the backflow prevention device is installed and water service initiated, an initial test must be performed within 30 days by a certified backflow tester.  Most plumbers are licensed or have a certified tester within their company.


How often does the backflow preventer need to be tested and who should test it?

The backflow assembly will require an annual inspection by a certified tester.   Most plumbers are licensed or have a certified tester within their company.  WVWA retains all past testing information and, as a service to our customers, can provide previous tester’s contact information.  West View Water Authority will mail an instructional letter and a Test and Maintenance Report Form approximately 30 days prior to the current expiration date of your backflow device inspection.


Failure to renew your valid test date can result in termination of your water service by the Authority.


 Do I need a water heater expansion tank?

Heated water expands.  Without an expansion tank, the water heater pressure relief valve can open, spilling water onto the floor or down the drain.  Water that you paid to heat.


The pressure relief valve on the water tank is an emergency control and is not intended to operate on a regular basis.  If it fails, system pressure can build to dangerous levels.  Elevated system pressure can damage your water heater, cause fittings to leak, toilets to run and faucets to drip.


Installing a heater expansion tank will allow for thermal expansion of the water and will control the pressure it generates and keep it within a normal, safe operating range; well below the emergency setting of an emergency relief valve.


For more information regarding backflow prevention or proper installation and maintenance of a backflow preventer assembly, please call West View Water Authority at 412-931-3500 during normal business hours.