A plumbing problem you may not think about is backflow. However, if your water suddenly turns dark and smelly, you may have this problem. This situation can develop when there's a shift in water pressure or when a backflow preventer wears out. When backflow occurs, contaminated water can mix with your drinking water and create an unhealthy situation in your home. You shouldn't use your water until a plumber can fix the problem. Here are some things to know about backflow.
Why Backflow Occurs
If there's a sudden drop in water pressure in your drinking water line as might happen when a city main ruptures, then it's possible for contaminated water to flow backwards through your system. Backflow can come from the sewer, reclaimed water lines, a swimming pool, a lawn irrigation system, an outdoor spigot, or a boiler. The water could have any number of contaminants in it including pathogens, dirt, and chemicals. Backflow can also occur when equipment that's supposed to prevent backflow wears out or malfunctions.
When to Suspect Your Home Has a Backflow Problem
If your water suddenly has a foul odor, is discolored, or has particulates in it, you should call a plumber to check the water to find out what's going on. The cause isn't always backflow since water heater problems can cause smelly water or water with rust particles in it. Since backflow can create an unsanitary situation, you don't want to risk drinking water that might be contaminated. If there has recently been a water main break or some other problem that caused a drop in the city's water pressure, and you notice a change in your water quality afterward, that could be a sign of backflow. Sometimes, you may not even realize you have a problem until a plumber does a routine backflow test.
How Backflow Is Corrected
Backflow can be prevented and corrected with a backflow preventer. There are different types plumbers can install, and the type the plumber uses depends on the cause and location of the problem. Replacing a bad preventer can fix the problem, or if your plumbing is missing a preventer, then the plumber may install one.
Backflow preventers are required by local codes for certain situations such as on irrigation systems. It's a good idea to check the preventer periodically for clogs that might interfere with its ability to shut off water when needed. If your drinking water pipes are contaminated with wastewater, then the pipes have to be sanitized by the plumber once the backflow problem has been corrected.