Liberty Lake avoids water contamination through sprinkler backflow protection

LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. — By June 30, homeowners and businesses with a sprinkler system are required to have a backflow preventer valve installed and tested. Those who don’t comply will have water to their sprinkler system cut off.

This is the second year the Liberty Lake Water and Sewer District has made it mandatory.

“We’ve always had a program but it’s been highly focused on commercial, and it really opened our eyes into how our water system could be susceptible to contamination,” said BiJay Adams, General Manager for Liberty Lake Water and Sewer District.

In 2019, Liberty Lake was under a boil advisory for a week over Thanksgiving. They believe E. Coli from someone’s yard made it from their sprinkler system through the backflow into the main water break.

They’re not the only ones in the Inland Northwest to make it a requirement. Hayden Lake, Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls are just some of the cities already implementing it.

Installing a backflow prevention valve can be costly.

“To install one if you don’t have one already, it can range from $300 to $700 plus,” said Alex Jones, owner of Jones Sprinkler.

Once it’s installed it incurs an annual cost to get it tested.

“It ranges anywhere from $35 to $150, depending on the company and right now there’s a very short supply of backflow assembly testers,” Jones said.

Spokane doesn’t have a mandatory program yet, despite it being a part of the plumbing code.

“The city will get to that as well,” said Loren Searl, Interim Director of Spokane Water and Interelectric Services. “We have 88,000 customers in the city. That is a lot of backflow citywide to hit that.”

Spokane does have one for businesses and is increasing backflow protection by adding the valve to new homes.

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