By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (April 5, 2017) – An effort to protect health, safety and water quality across the city – while adhering to state mandates – will soon add up to a new service in the city of Stephenville.
On Tuesday, the Stephenville City Council approved a contract with SC Tracking Solutions, which will provide tracking and reporting for backflow prevention devices, an effort that Interim Planning and Building Services Director Jeremy Allen said will ensure the city is meeting all requirements.
“The contract with SC Tracking Solutions provides a new way for the city to keep up with existing requirements,” he said, adding the city had a similar program in place sometime ago.
Chapter 51 of the city’s code of ordinances, amended by the city council in February 2008, says all backflow prevention assemblies shall be tested upon installation and at least once a year by a recognized inspector. Code also states proper testing it is the duty of property owner where the devices are installed and the expense is also the owner’s responsibility.
Among the various locations backflow preventers are required are sites where lawn irrigation systems, fire sprinklers and hydrants, decorative fountains are installed, as well as commercial settings.
“There are found anywhere backflow into the city’s water system could occur,” Allen said.
He also said there are more than 2,000 backflow devices across the city, which must be installed per guidelines and tested at least annually as required by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) 30 Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 290.
“This is a very significant investment in resources to track these devices and their inspection dates,” Allen said. “The city of Stephenville does not currently have a fee structure to cover the cost of upkeep of the program.”
The program, which will not have a negative impact on city coffers, is expected to rollout following a 60-day public education period.
For affected property owners, the service will include a $15 fee per device – $11.95 compensating SC Tracking Solutions and $2.55 being returned to the city – that is separate from the cost of inspections services.
Council member Carla Trussell said she spoke with an irrigation professional who said he charged $35 per device for inspection services.
Following related questions from council member Brady Pendleton, Allen explained SC Tracking Solutions will ensure the city and water consumers are meeting requirements to avoid costly TCEQ fines.
He also said the issue has been discussed by city officials several times and concerns have also been voiced by conscientious citizens.
Meanwhile, Public Works Director Nick Williams answered a question from council member Rhett Harrison related to the hazards posed by not having a proper prevention program and fully functioning preventers in place.
Williams said the hazards are high and referred to an incident in the city of Corpus Christi late last year that left more than 400,000 residents without water for several days. That incident led the city to urge citizens to not use, bathe or consume tap water, and, in addition to residential water restrictions also impacted businesses and vital services like school and hospitals.
Meanwhile, city officials say property owners who are following the city’s required permitting and inspection procedures and meeting annual inspection requirements won’t be greatly affected by the new service. But, property owners can expect to get mailings that remind them of inspection requirements and the service will have to be performed by a verified tester if it has not in the past.