Virginia Town Finds Antifreeze In Water Supply

Throughout our careers as plumbers and backflow prevention specialists in Ontario, we’ve encountered many stories about backflow events tainting and contaminating safe municipal drinking water supply systems. Backflow not only happens in the U.S.A. but it happens here in Toronto and across Ontario. It happens everywhere.

The following article was brought to our attention only days ago about just such an event occurring in a town only a 1½ hour drive from Washington D.C.

It only proves that so much more needs to be done with the advancement of protecting our safe municipal drinking water. Proper backflow prevention does save lives, but only when we all follow our plumbing codes, regulations, and bylaws regarding the installation and testing of backflow preventers.

November 2, 2016

“Antifreeze in a sprinkler system backed up into the water distribution system of a business near Brandy Road Wednesday morning, according to the Town of Culpeper Water and Sewer Department.

Staff had been flushing a hydrant north of the intersection of Bradford Road and Braggs Corner Road at about 9 a.m. when workers noted that “the water was dark and had an odor of a solvent,” according to a press release from the director of public services. An investigation revealed the presence of antifreeze, a propylene glycol product.

According to the release, propylene glycol is a nonhazardous liquid used for many purposes in household and business products. It is water soluble and has no known adverse effects on human health. However, the town distributed notices door-to-door in the area not to drink the water or cook with it.

The town is distributing bottled water to affected residents and businesses.

Based on initial investigation, it is believed that the resulting backflow and release of this chemical into the public water distribution system was confined to a small area north of the town along Brandy Road, the release also stated. Town water utility staff are flushing the water distribution lines affected to remove any residual contamination that may have entered the public water lines.

The public services department estimates the situation should be back to normal within 48 hours.

The town has a backflow prevention ordinance in place that should have prevented the sprinkler system from allowing water to flow back into the water distribution system.

The town is working with the county and the Virginia Department of Health Office of Drinking Water to determine how the incident occurred despite the legal requirements for backflow prevention.” [article from the Culpeper Star Exponent]

The fact that this fire sprinkler system had propylene glycol inside of it instead of the poisonous ethylene glycol is besides the point. It still tainted the town’s safe drinking water supply. The honest truth is that ALL of these fire suppression systems contain stagnant, oily, sludgy, anaerobic bacteria-laced water.

So, propylene glycol or not, do you really want to find it coming out of your faucet when you’re making your morning coffee or taking your shower?

We didn’t think so.