Health Risks Posed by Faulty Water Cross Connections

Throughout Colorado, hazardous cross connections rate among the most persistent public health risks in water distribution systems, and can even pose problems in private residences, a review of state records by I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS shows.

Without the right plumbing bits and pieces in place, you could be at risk of drinking toilet water, sipping lawn fertilizers or slurping hazardous chemicals. If they aren’t protected, cross connections between the drinking water in your home and non-potable water sources can mean that dirty water gets mixed with the clean. It might take as little as a change in water pressure to combine the two.

In addition to the home, backflow can happen almost anywhere—from schools to restaurants to water treatment plants.

Working with our partners at 9News, I-News found that 30 percent of water providers inspected by the state since 2009 were found to be in violation for something related to cross connections or backflow—most often issues related to documenting or managing risks. And 9 percent of the water systems were found to have potentially hazardous cross connections.

Among schools operating their own small water systems, inspectors found cross connection issues to be even more prevalent.  Roughly 47 percent were found to be in some kind of violation of cross connection or backflow rules, while risky cross-connections were found in 19 percent of the schools, according to a recent analysis by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Nearly one in three water systems in the last five years has been dinged for failing to keep adequate testing records or for other backflow-related problems.

If left unchecked, these routine plumbing problems can make people sick.

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