How Can We Get Quality Testers?
Les O´Brien, CET
UF/TREEO Center

How good are your testers? Are they well trained? Do the contractors/testers in your system treat your customers fairly?

Water purveyors normally send notification letters to water customers each year to remind them of their required annual field test. The notification is usually accompanied with a list of acceptable backflow testing contractors.

Since the private tester is in reality a contractor or representative of the water purveyor, the purveyor should take extra precautions before placing the individual on the acceptable testers list. The water purveyor should require these testers have a business license and proof of insurance. The customers may then assume the contractors listed are individuals acceptable to the water purveyor and have met the water purveyor´s minimum standards.

A policy should be established, published, and distributed to each of the private testing contractors. The water purveyor should provide the private testers with copies of the utility´s rules and regulations. It should be clear to the tester how to complete the test and maintenance report forms.

Some items that might be included in the policies:

  1. If the tester notes that a repair of the assembly was required, the tester must submit all parts removed from an assembly. These parts should be marked with the serial number of the assembly and dated.
  2. The tester must submit all assemblies removed. These assemblies will then be studied to determine what affect the water purveyor´s water quality or chemistry has had on these assemblies.
  3. Require all assemblies be tagged when tested. The tag information should include the date of the field test and the name or number of the certified backflow tester performing the work.
  4. Contractors/testers should be reminded that if the water purveyor receives three written complaints from the customers about the tester´s work, the tester will be removed from the list.
The water purveyor may require the prospective contractor/tester to test a few assemblies in front of the CCC Supervisor. The tester may be required to also take a written examination.

The tester should be required to sign a Code of Conduct document. A few samples of these documents can be found here:

http://www.nobackflow.com/Code%20of%20Conduct.pdf
http://www.mesawater.org/pdf/engineering/CERTIFIED%20TESTER%20COC.PDF
http://www.ochealthinfo.com/regulatory/water/cc/index.htm#CODE%20OF%20CONDUCT
http://www.charlestonwater.com/downloads/engineer_downloads/tester_ethics_policy_05_10_06.pdf

Proper Training

Many water purveyors will just accept a copy of the backflow tester´s certificate. A few will check the abilities of the tester. Many will not question the knowledge of the tester who has completed a 32 to 40 hour training class. If the tester has a certificate, that´s seems to be good enough.

Not all training classes are equal. A few water utilities provide training for testers within their jurisdiction. This allows the water purveyor to know exactly the capabilities of the local contractors/testers.

In South Carolina, the Charleston Water System is a good example of a water purveyor that requires proper training and certification.

MASTER TESTER - Completion of 3-day DHEC Backflow Prevention Seminar; Completion of The University of Florida TREEO Center, OR, The University of Southern California 5-day Advanced Backflow Prevention Tester Course; AND, Completion of the University of Florida TREEO Center 3-Day Backflow Prevention Assembly Repair/Maintenance & Troubleshooting Course.

ADVANCED TESTER - Completion of 3-day DHEC Backflow Prevention Seminar; Completion of either the 5-day Advanced Tester Courses of the University of Florida or the University of Southern California, OR completion of the TREEO Center 3-day Backflow Prevention Repair/Maintenance & Troubleshooting Course.

GENERAL TESTER - Completion of 3-day DHEC Backflow Prevention Seminar.

The Charleston Water System currently has eight Master Testers, ten Advanced Testers and sixty-one General Testers. The list can be found here:

http://www.charlestonwater.com/downloads/cross_connect/approved_testers_rev_12_05_06.pdf

Training vs. Certification

Some training schools offer certification to anyone attending the classes. In some cases, very few students fail the examinations.

Backflow training and backflow certification should be separate. Instructors should not have access to the written examination. The written portion should be administrated by an exam monitor. Additionally, the instructor should not proctor the hands-on examinations.

Not all backflow tester certification examinations are alike. Some tester certificates are much easier to obtain than others. The ABPA backflow tester certification is one of the hardest to acquire.

Re-certification

Re-certification periods average two to three years. Re-certification requirements range from simply completing fifty field tests within a three year period to a rigorous 100 question written examination plus hands-on testing of four different assemblies without the use of written instructions.

Available training schools

Here is a list of known schools. The facilities that offer the ABPA backflow tester certification examinations are noted:

http://www.nobackflow.com/schools.htm
or
http://www.abpa.org/Doc/PDF/Cert/SchoolListing.pdf

In conclusion, most honest contractors/testers welcome the water utility imposing and enforcing strict rules and regulations. This creates a "level playing field" for all of the contractors. This also insures that only those persons who are serious about being involved with your CCC program will ask to be placed on the approved testers list.

It is important to keep your water customers as happy as possible. Upset consumers may slow down or stop your CCC program. Here are a few suggestions to help improve your CCC program.


Here is some training and certification information found in a Navy Guide:

CROSS-CONNECTION CONTROL AND BACKFLOW PREVENTION PROGRAM IMPLEMENTATION AT NAVY SHORE FACTILITIES
NFESC - PORT HUENEME CA 93043
USER´s GUIDE - UG-2029-ENV

Certification is normally available through a course sponsored by the State or local regulatory agency followed by successful completion of a test at the conclusion of the course. Certification courses may also be provided by colleges/universities in your applicable State. Other sources that should be acceptable to any regulatory agency would be the certification course offered by the Training, Research and Education for Environmental Occupations (TREEO) Center - University of Florida Division of Continuing Education, the FCCCHR - University of Southern California, or the American Backflow Prevention Association (ABPA). Certifications are usually good for a period of 2 years (may vary depending on the State or local regulatory agency) and may be renewed by attending a follow-up refresher course or by writing a letter to the State requesting extension of certification.

The complete document can be found here:
http://www-nehc.med.navy.mil/downloads/prevmed/CCCBPP1.pdf


01/11/2007
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