On June 28, 2017, Council approved the Backflow Prevention Program Requirements and Implementation Plan (ACS2017-PWE-GEN-0007). The purpose of the Backflow Prevention Program is to assist with ensuring drinking water quality is maintained and public health risks are reduced by protecting Ottawa’s drinking water system from backflow events from industrial, commercial, institutional (IC&I) and multi-residential buildings. While previous backflow incidents have not compromised the drinking water system, these events highlight the City’s vulnerability and the need for diligence and oversight, such that the City’s Auditor General Reports (2005 and 2010) recommended protection of the City’s drinking water through a backflow prevention program.
The City’s Backflow Prevention Program follows a risk-based approach and addresses properties considered to be a severe or moderate hazard while aligning with the requirements of the Canadian Standards Association and the Ontario Building Code.
To assist property owners, updates to the City’s website have also been completed, including a detailed listing of qualifications for surveyors, installers and testers and a link to the Ontario Water Works Association (OWWA) webpage. Property owners can confirm a plumber’s qualifications using the OWWA Tester list. In 2018, the City’s webpage received 5,773 visits, with 4,419 unique visitors. Additionally, a web-based backflow management/tracking system has been procured from Backflow Solutions Inc. (BSI) Online. This system provides any staff with a database for tracking devices, testing requirements and notifications; storing testing information; and providing reporting.
Program Update of First Year of Operation (2018)
The City launched the Backflow Prevention Program notifying owners of severe hazard properties (examples include: manufacturing, automotive and hospital) with the goal of addressing these properties by June 2020. In 2018, an average of 244 notifications were delivered each month.
To date, the actual notifications for year one exceeds the proposed notifications, which has resulted in site surveys received and installations. This level of participation exceeds proposed implementation timelines as some facilities were proactive in participating in the program through completing surveys, installations and annual testing. Owners of severe hazard properties have one year (2019) to complete a site survey and an additional year (2020) to install backflow devices. Table 1 outlines program participation as of December 31, 2018.
As the program enters its second year, moderate hazard properties (e.g., apartment buildings, offices, restaurants) including many small businesses will start to receive their notifications. The program will notify 15,500 property owners by the end 2022, with the goal of addressing most moderate hazard properties by December 2025.
Moderate property owners have one year to complete a site survey and two years to install a backflow prevention device. Where property owners face financial and other logistical challenges, staff will work with them to reasonably mitigate these issues by providing additional time to complete the work. Any request for additional time will require the property owner to submit an installation plan by the site survey deadline for review and approval and will need to include rationale for the request and schedule. Failure to complete any of the required work, without City approval, by the required timeline could result in enforcement action; potentially including fines or service interruption. To date, no enforcement action has been required.
Staff anticipate there may be questions regarding the program and the need to comply, the city website has been updated with a step-by-step guide to program compliance which can be found here. Staff also encourage any questions or concerns to be directed to the Backflow Coordinator at email@example.com.