Mandated water meter device giving some fits in Eutaw

EUTAW, Ala. (WBRC) – More than a dozen people in Eutaw say they are experiencing water heater problems after installing a “backflow preventer.”

The purpose of the backflow preventer is to prevent potentially contaminated water from flowing into Eutaw's water supply. Nobody is against having the backflow preventer installed. It is the consequence that has become the problem.

Eutaw city leaders say they have no choice but to ensure all city water customers have the backflow preventer. This is something that is required by ADEM. In fact, the agency ordered this back in 2006, but the preventers were never installed in Eutaw.

Eutaw Mayor LaTasha Johnson blames oversight and communications problems within the city long before she became mayor.

“So we are way behind the times. It's been about 20 years and they should have been put on the houses and that's why we're working with ADEM and they're working with us so we can be in compliance,” said Mayor Johnson.

The two parties work together to such an extent that the residents do not incur any costs for installing the backflow preventer. ADEM awarded the city a $3.6 million grant to cover labor and equipment costs.

“My water heater is leaking water,” says Pete Robinson.

Robinson says it appears the new backflow preventer recently installed in his water meter is causing pressure in the line. In Robinson's case, there is a small leak on his water heater that costs $300 to repair. Robinson says it's a bill he shouldn't pay.

“I have no problem putting the valve on. It's like, once you cause the damage, you come back and fix it, and also I have low water pressure,” Robinson said.

Mayor Johnson says this is one of those situations where the homeowner needs to contact their plumber.

“We can’t answer that when it comes to water heaters. All I know is that it is mandatory and that they must have it otherwise they will not receive water supply. Many people have old pipes and it is not our responsibility for something like this to happen. We’re sorry, but it’s mandatory.”

Johnson said there are 1,500 customers in the city who use city water, and only 800 of those customers have new backflow preventers on their water meters.

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