Columbia, SC (WLTX) - How do you know your drinking water is safe? If you have a sprinkler system at your house, officials at DHEC say you could be at risk for cross contamination if you are missing a crucial part called a backflow preventer.
John Watkins runs the Backflow Prevention Program at DHEC. "A backflow preventer is key to keeping your drinking water safe. If your water company experienced a drop in pressure like a fire or a watermain break, it is possible that water from your sprinkler system could be pulled back into your house and into your drinking water."
News19 anchor Andrea Mock discovered her own home was missing a backflow preventer after brown water ran through her tap this summer. When DHEC came to test her water, they did find a slightly elevated level of 2, 4, D, a common herbicide.
Mock said, "As soon as I found out we didn't have this part, I called DHEC because I wanted to see what we had been drinking. And that test would only show what was in the water on that particular day. There's no telling what we might have consumed over the past five years. Without this part, anything we put on our grass had the potential to come into our water."
A backflow preventer costs about $100, and DHEC recommends that anyone with an irrigation system have the part installed to protect their water.
Sprinklers aren't the only chance for cross contamination; a hose can pose the same risk. "If you throw your hose into a pool or even add a can of fertilizer to the end of the hose, and once again, there happens to be a loss of pressure in your system, that water from the hose can get pulled back into your drinking water," Watkins said.
Correcting that problem is simple as well. A backflow preventer for your hose costs about ten dollars.
DHEC recommends checking with your irrigation specialist to make sure you have this piece properly installed in your yard. It's also a good idea to always run your water for five to ten seconds before you use it after it's been sitting for several hours.