City taking steps to ensure water safety in Douglas

Eddie Gonzales, environmental specialist for Douglas, inspects a backflow system at a local business.

In an effort to protect the public water supply against contamination or pollution the City of Douglas has taken steps to further enforce its backflow prevention rules and regulations.

According to Eddie Gonzales, environmental specialist for the city of Douglas, the ordinance regarding backflows and cross connections has been on the city books since 1993.

“It’s available online for anyone that wants to read it,” he said.

“It hasn’t been dormant, we have been doing inspections just not the way they’re supposed to be done regularly,” Luis Pedroza, Douglas’ finance director added. “The process that needs to be followed according to the ordinance. We were trying to prevent back syphoning into our water system.”

Pedroza said with Gonzales now on board, the city is trying to “get ahead of the game” where he can actually start notifying commercial businesses, they will have an inspection of their backflow due by a certain date. That inspection will be required at least once a year.

Gonzales recently sent out a letter to all Douglas merchants (included apartment complexes) advising them that beginning with their August 2019 utility bill, (that businesses will receive in September) a $1 monthly fee will be assessed to their bill for backflow prevention and administration costs.

“This monthly fee allows for one inspection per calendar year and in the event more than one inspection is required, an additional fee of $30 for each additional inspection shall be charged to the customer,” the letter states. “This fee shall be applicable for all buildings to have in place a backflow prevention assembly.”

“The $1 fee that we are charging helps us run the program,” Gonzales said. “The fee has been on the ordinance since it was written, it just hasn’t been enforced.”

Both Pedroza and Gonzales understand there are a lot of old businesses in Douglas who could be impacted.

“We’re here to help the smaller businesses,” Gonzales said. “It’s really the smaller, family owned ones

that can’t afford the financial impact should something go wrong.”

Gonzales added there are currently two certified backflow testers that are local that can do the testing.

A complete list with all the names of certified backflow testers from around the county as well as the state is available through Gonzales at City Hall.

“Backflow protects our residents,” Gonzales said. “It keeps whatever you have on your side on your side and it doesn’t come back into our fresh water.”

Gonzales shared the example of someone filling up a bucket to wash their vehicle and inside that bucket are chemicals they may use to clean that vehicle, and while washing their car and someone down the street with a bigger line or more pressure is going out, whatever is in your bucket will be sucked out to the bigger line.

“It’s like a straw,” he said. “The water in that bucket could be contaminated. It could suck it back in and put it into our system. We have to keep our fresh drinking water protected.”

“It’s a public and health safety concern,” Pedroza added.

Pedroza emphasized it’s not the city doing testing, its certified testers doing the testing with the city conducting follow up inspections as needed.

“We’re having to make sure those inspections are getting done and getting done correctly,” he said. “If no one follows up on that, those backflows can very well malfunction. We have to make sure you are getting your inspections done and done properly.”

“Everybody is responsible to do what’s right,” Gonzales said.

Anyone with questions may contact Gonzales at (520) 417-7310 or email him at eddie.gonzales@douglasaz.gov. He will also have an informational booth about backflow prevention as well as other programs like FOG (Fats, Oil, Greases) at the upcoming Cochise County Fair, Sept. 26-29.

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