When you own or manage a restaurant, water backflow prevention is critical to avert drinking water contamination. That is why backflow preventers are required by law. Not sure if you have one and where it’s located? Most likely, your restaurant has at least one commercial backflow prevention device located within the water pipes at each “cross-connection” point to ensure water only flows one way, preventing drinking water from being contaminated due to “backflow.” It is imperative that it remain in working order to protect your customers, staff, and community.

In this blog, we’ll cover:

  • What if your commercial backflow preventer stops working?
  • How to tell if you have a backflow problem.
  • When does your backflow preventer need to be tested?
  • Backflow preventer & cross-connection safety

Restaurant coffee machine

What Happens if Your Commercial Backflow Preventer Stops Working?

When water enters your restaurant from the main water supply, it should only ever flow IN. However, sometimes a pressure change in the line can occur from a water main break, power outage, or an open fire hydrant, leaving the potential for water to flow backward and seep into the main water supply line. When your backflow device is working, it stops this from happening. If it stops working and there is a pressure change, the backflow of water could lead to:

  1. Contamination of Public Drinking Water. Dirty water and soap from sinks and dishwashers, other solid waste from drains and disposals, human waste, and chemical cleaning agents can back up into the community’s water supply and potentially make people ill.
  2. Pollution of the Restaurant’s Potable Water Systems. Dangerous water can get into your restaurant’s drinking water sources and beverage systems, sinks, and kitchen areas – anywhere there are water lines cross-connected to a potable water system. This is a more direct threat to your customers and staff, especially when backflow impurities go undetected and people become sick. That’s why each “cross-connection” point is required by law to have a backflow device and undergo an annual inspection.

Restaurant and commercial kitchen cross-connections that may require a backflow device:

  • Beverage systems using CO2 tanks
  • Dishwashers
  • Ice makers
  • Coffee machines
  • Steam cooking systems
  • Preparation areas
  • Water fountains
  • Fire Sprinkler Systems
  • Irrigation Systems

How to Tell if You Have a Backflow Problem

When you run a busy restaurant, there are a few general backflow problem indicators to watch for, including cloudy, muddy, or strange looking/smelling/tasting water. Also, less water pressure and/or an illness outbreak can be an indication there is a backflow preventer problem.

Sometimes the signs of a broken backflow preventer are not obvious but can still cause prolonged bouts of chronic illness, which is why regular inspections by a certified backflow preventer technician are critical to the health of your customers, staff, and restaurant.

When Does Your Backflow Preventer Need to be Tested?

According to the Certified Commercial Property Inspectors Association (CCPIA), the EPA holds each municipality accountable for its own water purity, therefore commercial backflow preventer testing requirements may differ slightly by region, however, typical inspection requirements include the following:

  • When your backflow prevention assembly is first installed by a licensed plumber, it should be tested.
  • There should be an annual inspection/test of each cross-connection control and backflow preventer by a certified backflow prevention inspector.
  • Inspect and test after any repair, replacement, or relocation of the backflow prevention assembly.

When it comes to inspections, it is important for you to know that a licensed fire protection sprinkler technician can legally inspect your backflow preventers, but a backflow technician cannot, by code, inspect your sprinkler system. Therefore, you can save time and money by hiring AIE’s sprinkler inspector to also inspect your backflow preventers while performing your annual certification.

Glass of clear water under a faucet

Backflow Preventer & Cross-Connection Safety

Now that you know how vital your restaurant backflow preventer and cross-connection devices are to the safety of your customers, staff, and business, you can see why AIE recommends that inspections occur more often than once a year. When you work with a company that provides all fire and water services, it is convenient to test them along with your other regularly scheduled NFPA fire protection and safety inspections.

AIE 40 Years logoWho do You Call for Backflow Inspections & 24/7 Emergency Repairs?

Backflow preventer issues can be subtle yet dangerous, so be sure to make this critically important inspection protocol part of your overall plan. If you’re not sure who to call to locate, inspect, and/or repair your restaurant’s backflow prevention devices, AIE is at your service. We offer all fire safety services to nationwide multi-location restaurants and 24/7/365 in-house emergency assistance. Contact us today, 800-892-9863.