Atmore Utilities Board approves required policy for water system

Published 9:42 am Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Reduced Pressure Zone (RPZ) device shown above is already in place at Atmore Community Hospital.|Photo by Lisa Tindell

The Atmore Utilities Board recently approved a new policy that will help to protect water customers from the possibility of water contamination. The move, which was required by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the Environmental Protection Agency, will also protect the City of Atmore by prevention contamination possibilities.

AUB Manager Tom Wolfe said the reduced pressure zone, or RPZ, policy now in place will firmly establish safety measures for the city’s water supply.

“This is something that is required by ADEM and the EPA to provide a method of preventing backflow of hazardous materials into the water supply,” Wolfe said. “All of this is to protect the consumer and the City against any water contamination.”

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Water Superintendent John Roley said most residences already have the necessary equipment installed. However, there may be commercial or industrial consumers that will have to make the upgrades soon.

“We have already done a lot of upgrades in the residential area,” Roley said. “What we will be looking at will be businesses that fall under certain guidelines that will require the equipment to be installed at their location.”

By definition, an RPZ prevention assembly is a device with two independently acting approved check valves together with a hydraulically operating mechanically independent pressure relief valve located between the check valves and below the first check valve. These units are located between two tightly closing resilient-seated shutoff valves and are fitted with properly located resilient seated test devices.

An example of RPZ equipment is visible on the south side (Laurel Street) of property at Atmore Community Hospital and to the rear of Walgreen’s on South Main Street.

Roley said there is no definite timeline for the upgrades, but some businesses can expect to be required to make the upgrades in the very near future.

“It may take a little time to get all of the upgrades and testing done,” Roley said. “The first businesses we will be looking at for these upgrades will be funeral homes.”

Roley said residential customers won’t have to pay for the changes, however, businesses that require the changes will have to foot the bill for the upgrade.

“Industrial and commercial businesses that have any of the hazards listed on our policy will have to take care of the upgrades at their expense,” Roley said. “As older meters are upgraded, those changes can be made by a certified plumber. If we have to rework a meter, I can’t turn the water back on at those locations until those upgrades are completed. It’s the policy and we have to abide by it.”

Roley said newer businesses or residences probably won’t have to make any changes.

“Most of what we’re looking at now is built into the code for new construction,” Roley said. “A lot of newer businesses were built with the code in mind. Walgreen’s has an RPZ already in place at their location. It’s a newer construction and it was an automatic part of the process of building there.”

Wolfe said annual testing of RPZs at business and industry location will also be at the expense of the property owner.

“Once the RPZ is in place, testing has to be done on an annual basis to assure the device is working properly,” Wolfe said. “To ensure the property owner is in compliance those tests will have to be done at their expense.”

Cost for installing the proper equipment can range dramatically in price, Roley said.

“The expense for putting the equipment in place will vary depending on the hazard possibilities at any business,” Roley said. “A small business with minimal hazard possibilities could expect to spend anywhere from $200 to $1,000 to get the work done. Larger businesses, like hotels, could spend as much as $3,000 to $4,000 to install the device.”

Businesses that are on the list of those required to make the transition include, but are not limited to: animal feedlots, commercial car washes, commercial laundries, hospitals, morgues, mortuaries, medical clinics, autopsy facilities, medical labs, irrigation systems, laundry and dry cleaning facilities, photo and film processing labs, power plants, sewage lit stations and treatment plants, slaughter houses, stock yards, schools and colleges.

“We have a good safe water system in Atmore,” Wolfe said. “This is just another way that we can protect it further.”