Something is wrong with the Bedford County Utility District (BCUD) Water Department and it is needlessly costing individual BCUD members hundreds of dollars.
In June, my wife, Linda, and I received a BCUD letter telling us, because we had a pool, to install a back-flow preventer on our water line or have our water turned off. A back-flow preventer is effectively a check valve, preventing potentially contaminated water, say from a pool or watering trough, from syphoning back into the public water system should the BCUD lose water pressure. As a former TVA Instrument and Controls Specialist, I understand the need to protect the public water system. I also knew that I didn't need a back-flow preventer because I had fresh water piped to the edge of my pool, where it flowed into the pool through an "air-gap." An air-gap simply means there is no physical piping connecting the public water system and the pool; water spills out of a faucet and falls through the air before splashing into the pool. There is absolutely no way water from the pool can flow back into the public water system.
I contacted the BCUD and was told only the Board or Directors/Commissioners could grant a waiver. I wrote the Board and Linda attended a Board meeting in August, presenting a photograph of the pool, showing the water flowing out of the faucet, two feet above the highest water level in the pool. The waiver was rejected.
Confused but resigned, we paid over $700 to have the back-flow preventer and an insulated cover installed. Two weeks ago, two BCUD technicians inspected the installation, just as we were adding water to the pool. We passed but were also told that the air-gap was perfectly acceptable and a waiver should have been granted.
There are several possible explanations for this costly difference of opinion. Perhaps the technicians were unqualified, but if not, why send them out to approve an installation. Perhaps the Board ignores their employees or are too arrogant to reverse a Board decision. More likely they're afraid a waiver will force them to evaluate more requests and simply chose to financially punish BCUD members. If that is the answer, shame on them for either. All of us hope the Board, should they have personal or family connections to plumbing or plumbing supply businesses, would recuse themselves waiver requests, to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. If they don't, back-flow preventers likely are not the BCUD's only problem.
The fact remains the Board is likely imposing a needlessly restrictive and expensive mandate on BCUD members, without realistically enhancing safety. The question in all of this is; how many tens of thousands of dollars are BCUD members being forced to waste? We may only learn the answer when some lawyer files a class action suit, after his or her waiver request is rejected. Sadly, the people who will suffer then will again be the BCUD members, not the Commissioners.