Bad and ugly photo contest gets nasty 


Village residents might have seen their potable water turn pink had Sask. Water’s Brendan Miller not spotted this faulty installation.

Every year a group in Western Canada tries to encourage effective backflow prevention with a photo contest where plumbers and inspectors are invited to send in pictures of the worst examples they’ve seen. 

And every year the Bad and Ugly Cross Connection Control Contest, organized by the Western Canada Section of the American Waste Water Association (AWWA), draws a plethora of disturbing images. In 2019, things got downright nasty. 

There were two winners for 2019. Fred Ramackers, with the City of Regina, submitted a photo he took in a funeral home. 

Directly underneath a preparation table was a wash down water closet. There was a single check directly to the potable water below the flood level of the water closet. And there was an unprotected faucet directly above the water closet. 

Ramackers recommended the following corrections: remove the faucet and install a reduced pressure zone (RP) backflow preventer complete with a hose connection and dedicated hose for the wash-down table. 

For the single check, he recommended that piping be reconfigured to accommodate an air gap above the flood level of the water closet. This would be done with either a manufactured air gap fitting or an upsized ‘funnel’ with a physical air gap above it. 

The City of Regina’s Fred Ramackers found backflow hazards in this funeral home plumbing.

Water treatment system fixed 

Sask. Water’s Brendan Miller was inspecting a village water treatment plant and came across two cross connections in piping coming off the plant’s distribution header. 

The first was a garden hose lowered into a pit below the overflow. The second was a potassium permanganate saturator barrel connected directly to the same distribution header. 

“If the distribution was ever to depressurize, even without backsiphonage, the head pressure in the barrel would push a five percent potassium permanganate solution in the supply and distribution header,” said Miller. “It would make for some pretty pink water, but I don’t think many people would appreciate a coloured ‘potable’ water supply.” 

In water treatment, potassium permanganate is typically used to dissolve iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide into solid particles that are filtered out of the water. 

The garden hose has since been disconnected and the supply line to the saturator has been brought up well above the outflow of the barrel, he reported. A dual check along with a redundant shutoff valve – closed at all times – was installed temporarily until a proper air gap could be established. 

This year’s contest drew a bumper crop of entries. “We had bad and ugly cross connection control photos from across Canada and we are pleased with the interest shown,” remarked Danny Wilson, aWestern Canada Section AWWA Cross Connection Control Committee member based in Medicine Hat, Alta. “The purpose of this contest is to increase the awareness of cross connections and to educate our water industry representatives in the field,” he added. Backflow manufacturers Zurn, Watts and Conbraco provided contest prizes. 

“Our water industry representatives, inspectors, plumbers, and testers all share a responsibility to protect our water supplies. Cross connections do exist and are a potential to contaminate or pollute our potable water. Lets do our best to find and correct these cross connections before the damage is done.  We are looking forward to another year of “bad and ugly” photo submissions in 2020, said Wilson. 

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