Chippewa Falls to begin water line inspections

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU)- The Wisconsin DNR has decided it’s time to crack down on water line inspections to make sure sewer water, and drinking water aren’t being mixed together.

One western Wisconsin community isn't wasting any time. In the coming weeks inspectors will head to businesses and homes in Chippewa Falls to check for what's known as cross connection.

Chippewa Falls Director of Public Works Richard Rubenzer says the most common spots for a cross connection to happen is where a garden hose connects to your home. Rubenzer says the solution to the problem is a simple valve that only allows water to flow one way out of a home.

“Cross connections can happen a lot of places in a home or business. It can happen in bathrooms or at soda machines you might find in restaurants,” Rubenzer said.

Rubenzer says a shift in DNR regulations has city inspectors headed out for more inspections in the coming months to make sure pipes with clean drinking water aren't being contaminated from pipes containing non-drinkable water. That situation is known as a cross connection, but how does it happen?

“In our public water system the pressure is pretty constant but occasionally when there is a water main break or a hydrant issue the pressure can drop dramatically,” Gary McLaren said.

McLaren is the General Manager for HydroDesigns, the firm the city of Chippewa Falls contracted to help with water inspections. He says the concern for contaminated water comes when pressure drops in the system which can lead to clean water being mixed with contaminated water. That process is known as backflow.

In order to prevent fertilizers, chemicals or other hazardous items from potentially getting into the water supply, inspectors in Chippewa Falls will make sure all homes and businesses have the proper valves installed to prevent backflow from happening. That inspection process will take some time, and adding the new valves to homes will cost customers money.

“The average cost to add a simple backflow valve would be anywhere from $7 to $20 depending on the valve,” Rubenzer said.

The City of Chippewa Falls says businesses will start receiving notices for their inspections in the coming weeks. Those inspections will run for the next year or so. Residential lines will be inspected when the city installs new water meters at customers’ homes.

The City of Chippewa Falls says after inspections homeowners and businesses will have 30 days to comply and get any violations fixed. If they fail to comply, they'll get a second chance. If violations are not fixed following a second notice, homeowners could face the possibility of having their water disconnected.

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