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Ask SAM: Why do I suddenly have to get my irrigation system inspected?
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Ask SAM: Why do I suddenly have to get my irrigation system inspected?

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Q: I've had an irrigation system for my residential lawn for many years. In early April, I received, for the first time, a mailing from Winston-Salem Forsyth County Utilities requiring a Backflow Assembly Test of the irrigation system to prevent contamination of city water from backflow through the system. The charge from a local plumbing company to inspect and certify the backflow assembly was $154. The inspection is administered by a third party, BSI, Inc. and will be required annually. If this is such a threat to our city water supply, why has an inspection not previously been required? Does this certification fee sound reasonable?

— M.L.

Money’s tight for a lot of people right now, so the last thing you wanna do is be spending cash without even knowing it.

Answer: It is part of a new state law requiring public water systems to keep records of all cross-connections. Gale Ketteler, a spokeswoman for WSFC Utilities explained what is going on. The State of North Carolina has required backflow prevention assemblies for many years on all cross-connections to keep our public water supply safe. These assemblies must be tested and certified annually to ensure that they are working properly. This requirement has been in effect since at least 2007. As of Jan. 1, 2020, new state record-keeping guidelines went into effect that requires public water systems like Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities to enforce the existing law and maintain a database of all cross-connections within the water system.

WSFC Utilities has partnered with BSI Online of Worth, Ill., to identify and notify customers listed in our records as having backflow prevention assemblies. Letters are sent 30 days prior to the assembly testing due date. The letter displays the WSFC Utilities logo with a Worth, Ill., return address and a sample notice can be viewed at cityofws.org/2625/Backflow-Prevention. BSI Online also manages submission of test results and maintains the database required by the state.

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These important requirements are designed to ensure protection of our water supply and avoid backflow contamination of both private and public water lines. Customers cover the cost of the test, which varies by type, size and location of assembly. Necessary repairs will also impact pricing. The cost to upload test results to BSI Online is $12 and is included in the charge from your testing company.

Customers should review the Registered Backflow Preventer Testing Companies PDF linked on cityofws.org/2625/Backflow-Prevention. WSFC Utilities will not recommend a testing company and as with all services, consumers should check references and compare prices.

Q: I purchased a house in September 2020 in Forsyth County, not in town limits. There is a vacant lot (all grass) adjacent to my property that has not been mowed since that time. Through online property records, I found the owner’s name and address and sent a letter with no response. The owner does not own any other property in Forsyth County. This owner has owned the vacant lot for seven years. What options do I have short of mowing the property myself?

Answer: Unfortunately, there are not really any options. Minor Barnett, the director of the Forsyth County Office of Environmental Assistance and Protection, said that, “the county does not have an ordinance regulating vegetation growing on properties in the unincorporated areas outside the municipalities.”

Street closed

The 2400 block of Parkway Drive, between Magnolia and Ainsworth streets, is scheduled to be closed to through traffic from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to remove a large tree. A detour will be set up. 

Email: AskSAM@wsjournal.com

Online: journalnow.com/asksam

Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101

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