The town maintains a backflow prevention program to keep contaminated water from entering potable water in a building. Chapter 14-56 of the Hillsborough Code of Ordinances covers cross-connection control. For questions or additional information, contact Utilities Infrastructure Protection Supervisor Troy Miller by email or at 919-296-9653.
What is a cross-connection?
A cross-connection is an actual or potential connection between the public or consumer’s potable (drinking) water system and any non-potable source or substance. This connection presents a hazard to the quality of the public or the consumer’s drinking water system. Cross-connections are managed to prevent backflow incidents and to protect public safety.
What is backflow?
Typically, water will flow from the public water supply to the consumer’s plumbing distribution system. Backflow is the undesirable reversal of this flow of water and substances, with flow occurring instead from the non-potable source to the potable source.
Are all backflow incidents the same?
No. Cross-connections are generally classified as high or low hazard depending on the non-potable source or what the substance is. Each state (and sometimes the local public water utility) defines for itself the criteria for the hazards since there is no consensus or national standard for differentiating between a high and low hazard. There is some commonality among the definitions:
- High hazard — This may be referred to as a toxic, health or contamination hazard where a backflow incident may pose a serious threat to the public water supply.
- Low hazard — This is any non-health hazard that is considered aesthetically objectionable or a pollutant that will not have serious effects.
What causes backflow incidents to occur?
Backflow incidents are caused by back pressure or back siphonage.
- Back pressure — This is created when the pressure within the customer’s system becomes greater than the water supply pressure. Elevated tanks, heating systems and booster pumps are some of the main causes of back pressure.
- Back siphonage — This is created when there is a negative or reduced pressure in the water supply main. Water main breaks or hydrant flushing are two of the main causes of back siphonage.
How are cross-connections protected to prevent backflow incidents?
Cross-connections are protected through containment or isolation. An effective control program ideally has a mix of containment and isolation protection.
- Containment — This is cross-connection protection at the consumer’s water service or meter. This protection contains the entire facility and protects the public water supply from the consumer’s plumbing system. It does not provide cross-connection protection within the facility.
- Isolation — This is cross-connection protection within the water consumer’s facility. This protection isolates the hazard at the point of use and protects the facility from contamination or pollutant hazards entering the internal plumbing system.
The Town of Hillsborough, like most municipalities, uses the containment method for its system.
Am I required to install a backflow prevention device?
Several types of facilities are required to install a backflow prevention device. Included facilities are listed below. If your property or business type is not included in the list and you have a specific question about your legal requirements, call the town at 919-296-9653.
- Auto repair shops
- Auxiliary water supply (wells)
- Barber shops and beauty salons
- Buildings that reuse or recycle water
- Buildings with commercial or public kitchens, groundwater wells, multiple water service lines, roof tanks and elevated storage lines, or water-cooled equipment or chillers
- Commercial car washes
- Dye plants
- Fire sprinkler system
- Food preparation facilities
- Food processing plants and meat or fish packers
- Funeral parlors
- Lawn irrigation systems
- Metal plating, cleaning, processing or fabricating facilities
- Hospitals, clinics and laboratories (including veterinary hospitals)
- Ice manufacturing facilities
- Large residential dwellings with water boilers that use rust-inhibitors or other water treatment chemicals (treated water boilers)
- Laundries and dry cleaners
- Medical and dental offices
- Morgues, mortuaries and autopsy facilities
- Nursing homes
- Paper processors
- Photo-processing facilities
- Printing facilities
- Schools and colleges
- Sewage treatment plants or handling facilities
- Slaughterhouses and live poultry processing facilities
- Swimming pools
- Warehouses with toxic chemical storage
How can backflow prevention devices be protected in winter?
The devices can be protected in winter with pipe insulation, an insulated cover or a heat lamp and heat trace tape. All backflow devices are required to be in a class 1 or 2 enclosure that meets the American Society of Sanitary Engineering’s 1060 standard. These enclosures help protect against frost and freezing. Backflow devices for irrigation can be removed for winterization, but they must be retested when reinstalled in the spring.
Can anyone test a backflow prevention assembly?
No. Backflow prevention assemblies must be tested by qualified individuals who have obtained the proper certifications pertaining to cross-connection and backflow assembly testing procedures. The town contracts with Backflow Solutions Inc. to manage its backflow test data. For a list of licensed, registered testing agencies, visit BSI Online with your customer confirmation number.
- New installations — The test form must be printed and signed by a licensed tester who performed the work, and a copy must be provided to Backflow Solutions by email at email@example.com.
- Existing assemblies — Licensed testers must submit test results to Backflow Solutions through BSI Online.
For more information, contact Backflow Solutions at 800-414-4990 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What happens if a backflow prevention assembly fails a test?
If a backflow prevention assembly fails a test and does not meet standards, the assembly must be repaired. All repairs must be made within 10 days, and the certified tester must retest and submit a test report to Backflow Solutions Inc. at BSI Online. The town contracts with the company to manage its backflow test data. For more information, contact Backflow Solutions at 800-414-4990 or email@example.com.
Who has responsibility for cross-connection control?
Everyone. The water utility, local plumbing authority, water consumers and all individuals performing backflow prevention assembly installation, testing and repairs have some level of responsibility for ensuring an effective cross-connection control program.
Water utility responsibilities:
- Developing an approved ordinance to govern the program in accordance with state cross-connection guidelines or regulations.
- Conducting on-site facility surveys to make the proper determination of hazard and the method of protection required.
- Documenting and maintaining all records pertaining to field surveys.
- Maintaining an accurate inventory of all backflow assemblies and, in some jurisdictions, backflow devices.
- Developing a testing schedule of all testable backflow assemblies.
- Notifying the water consumer when assemblies are due for testing.
- Retaining all assembly test reports.
- Conducting enforcement action for noncompliance.
Local plumbing authority responsibilities:
- Implementing and enforcing local plumbing codes.
Water consumer responsibilities:
The water consumer is responsible for preventing unprotected cross-connections and maintaining protected cross-connections within the water consumer’s facility. This includes:
- Maintaining backflow devices that ensure cross-connections do not pose a risk to the water distribution system.
- Ensuring backflow assemblies are tested and maintained according to the testing schedule of the water provider by hiring qualified personnel in accordance with the local jurisdiction’s criteria.
Responsibilities of individuals involved with backflow assemblies:
The individuals performing backflow prevention assembly installation, testing and repairs are responsible for following all codes and regulations as outlined by the local cross-connection control program. This includes:
- Holding all necessary and required credentials to properly install, test and maintain backflow assemblies.
- Ensuring backflow assembly testing equipment is calibrated and working properly.
- Testing backflow assemblies in accordance with the proper testing procedures.
- Repairing backflow assemblies in accordance with manufacturers’ authorized repair procedures.
- Properly identifying and documenting all backflow assembly information, such as hazard, size, make, model, serial number and location.
- Documenting the results of backflow assembly tests.
- Submitting test reports to the water utility within the required time frame.
- Providing to the water consumer a copy of the test results.
Do backflow contamination incidents really happen?
Yes. For documented examples of contamination cases, see the University of Florida Training, Research and Education for Environmental Occupations’ website.
How do I set up recurring payments, bill pay or bank draft?
The information below includes actions that must be taken to ensure your water and sewer bills can be paid.
Recurring Credit or Debit Card
Enroll in the town’s billing system by visiting the town payments and donations website. You will need your account number and the amount you last paid for water or sewer charges. Please contact the town — by email preferably — for the amount last paid if you do not have your last bill. See the question “How do I reach customer service?”
For confirmation that your automated payment is in effect, look for “Paid by draft” on the bottom coupon of your bill. Automated payments will have the option to be charged on the 10th or 25th day of each month.
Bank Originated Bill Pay
Enter information in your bank’s bill pay feature by using the steps below. Note that your bank will issue a paper check for payment during the implementation process for electronic payments. Paper checks can take 7 to 10 days to arrive.
- Log in to your bank’s online bill pay service and create a new payment template.
- Enter the following “remit to” address: Town of Hillsborough, PO Box 429, Hillsborough, NC 27278.
- Enter your account or customer number in the format shown on your bill.
Complete and return to the town an automated debit service form along with a voided check or letter from your bank listing the account holder's name and bank account and routing numbers.
- Obtain the form from your bill, from the Town Hall Annex (located at 105. E. Corbin St.), or from the Water and Sewer Services page of this website.
- Ensure your new account number and the amount last paid are added to the form.
- Return the form by mail to PO Box 429, Hillsborough, NC 27278 or in person or deposit box at the Town Hall Annex.
- Pay by other methods until your bill states it is paid by draft.
How do I use the online features that are available for customers?
Visit the town payments and donations website to register. Account numbers are provided on bills. To confirm your registration on the website, you will need your account number and the amount you last paid for water or sewer charges. Please contact the town — by email preferably — for the amount to enter if you do not have your last paid bill. For contact information and the information to provide in the inquiry, see the question “How do I reach customer service?”
I’m having an issue with the online registration process. What do I do?
To confirm your registration, you will need both:
- Your account number.
- The amount you last paid.
Your account number is on your bill. If the system does not accept the amount you enter, please contact the town for the amount. Email is preferable. See the question “How do I reach customer service?”
When will my bill arrive, and what is my payment due date?
Your bill should arrive via mail during the first week of the month. Your payment due date is the 25th day of each month, with payment due the following business day if the due date falls on a weekend or holiday.
What is the town’s service disconnection policy?
An additional $40 delinquency fee will be assessed and service will be disconnected if the previous month’s bill is not paid by the current month’s due date. In other words, disconnection will occur a month after payment has not been received. To be reconnected, the past due bill, all penalties, fees and the current bill must be paid in full.
What is the town’s policy on fees for electronic payments?
The Hillsborough Board of Commissioners has decided not to add any fees or surcharges to electronic payments of utility bills at this time. The board has noted that automatic bank draft is a preferred, convenient payment method that generates no fees for customers and minimal fees for the town.
Can payments be made over the phone?
Yes. The toll-free number is 833-262-5902. Please do not use the customer service number for the Hillsborough Financial Services Department to make a payment by phone. Town staff cannot take credit card numbers over the phone.
What other payment methods are available?
See the document below or the Hillsborough Water and Sewer Services page on this website for a listing of payment methods. A deposit box is located at the Town Hall Annex, 105 E. Corbin St. Cash should not be placed in the deposit box.
How do I reach customer service?
Send an email or call the Hillsborough Financial Services Department at 919-296-9450 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Responses will be made within 24 hours of the next business day. Inquiries should include:
- Water/sewer service address.
- Full name on the water/sewer account.
- Water/sewer account number.
- Contact information.
At times, the town may issue an advisory or notice about its water. Please sign up for emergency notifications through OC Alerts at ocalertsnc.com. The town will use the alert system for larger impact areas. Otherwise door hangers will be distributed. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about these advisories and notices.
The full chart Making Sense of Water Advisories and Notices provides a quick glance at what these advisories and notices mean and what to do during the advisory or notice period.
What is a system pressure advisory?
A system pressure advisory is a public statement issued when the water system pressure has dropped below the state minimum of 20 pounds per square inch and contaminants could be present in the water but have not been confirmed through testing. Through these advisories, customers are advised to boil tap water or use bottled water for consumption until further notice. Results from bacterial testing of the water are returned in 24 hours.
What is a boil water notice?
A boil water notice is issued when total coliform bacteria have been detected in the water system. Coliforms can indicate the presence of potentially harmful bacteria. The presence of total coliform triggers testing for E. coli bacteria. During the time period of a notice, all affected customers must boil their water or use bottled water for consumption. Notices are placed on streets and in neighborhoods that are affected. Results from repeated bacterial testing of the water are returned in 24 hours.
What is an E. coli boil water notice?
An E. coli boil water notice is issued when E. coli bacteria have been detected in the water system. E. coli can indicate contamination from human or animal wastes. During the time period of a notice, all affected customers must boil their water or use bottled water for consumption. Notices are placed on streets and in neighborhoods that are affected. Infants, young children, some of the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems are at greater risk.
What is a ‘do not drink’ water notice?
A “do not drink" notice is issued when a harmful contaminant has been found in the water system. During the time period of a notice, all affected customers must use bottled water for consumption. Notices are placed on streets and in neighborhoods that are affected.
What is a ‘do not use’ water notice?
A “do not use" notice is issued when an unknown contaminant has been found in the water system. During the time period of a notice, all affected customers must use bottled water only for any purposes. Notices are placed on streets and in neighborhoods that are affected. Testing will occur to determine next steps.
When are system pressure advisories issued?
Unforeseen events -- System pressure advisories are issued when an unforeseen event has occurred that reduces water pressure below 20 psi and could have allowed contaminants to enter the water distribution system. Such events would include a water main break, small or widespread loss of system pressure, or a natural disaster.
In some cases, the town’s field staff can make repairs to a water main while the main is under pressure, which prevents bacteria and any contamination from the soil from entering the distribution system. When this process is used, no advisory is issued. In addition, an advisory may not be issued if the cause for contamination in an initial water sampling result is known and is being addressed promptly.
Planned events -- For planned interruption of water, the town will provide notice of planned maintenance. No system pressure advisory will be issued unless an unforeseen circumstance occurs during the planned maintenance.
When are boil water and E. coli boil water notices issued?
A boil water notice may be issued if a routine water sampling tests positive for total coliform bacteria but not E. coli bacteria. Repeat samples are taken at the same source as well as up and downstream of the source.
If repeat samplings are positive for E. coli, an E. coli boil water notice is issued to the affected areas regarding the sample.
What type of bacteria might enter the system?
The town’s water treatment process removes total coliform bacteria from water, but events such as a water main break or a loss of pressure in the water distribution system may allow these bacteria to enter water lines through cracks in pipes or back-siphoning from a residential plumbing system. Total coliform also can be detected if a dead-end water main has little water turnover. The town can address this by flushing the mains more frequently to ensure the presence of fresh water and appropriate chlorine levels. In any of the above situations, boiling water vigorously for one minute will kill these bacteria and make the water safe to drink.
Total coliform bacteria are a collection of microorganisms that live in large numbers in the intestines of humans and animals, as well as in most soils and surface water. A subgroup of these microorganisms is the fecal coliform bacteria, the most common member being E. coli. These bacteria occur naturally in lakes and streams, but they indicate that the water is contaminated with human or animal waste and may pose a health risk to people who drink it.
Who will receive a boil water advisory?
For isolated incidents, such as an incident related to a water main being repaired, the town will notify only the water customers affected or served by the water main in question. The notification will be provided by placing door hangers at each customer’s residence.
If the advisory or notice is widespread, other appropriate notification measures will be used to assist the town in informing the public. Customers are encouraged to:
- Subscribe to Town of Hillsborough news.
- Sign up for emergency notifications from OC Alerts, the public alert system in Orange County.
How long is a boil water advisory or notice in effect?
An advisory or notice will remain in effect until test samples show the water is safe to drink. Notification of the end of the advisory or notice will be issued. Testing for bacteria requires 24 hours to complete, depending on the type of test used.
What should I do if an advisory or notice has been issued?
During the period of the advisory or notice, consumers are advised to boil all water or use bottled water for any human or pet consumption. This includes for drinking, ice making, brushing of teeth, pet water, handwashing, dishwashing and food preparation. Vigorous boiling for one minute should kill any disease-causing organisms that may be present in the water.
Infants below the age of 6 months and pregnant women should use an alternate water supply, such as bottled water, whenever possible during an advisory or notice. Boiling water concentrates any levels of nitrates that may be present in the water.
The town also encourages water conservation during an advisory or notice.
Do I need to boil my water if I have a filter system on my faucet or refrigerator?
Yes. Most point-of-use filters are designed to improve the aesthetics of water ― taste and odor ― but not to remove harmful bacteria.
Is the water safe for bathing and washing dishes or laundry?
During a “do not use" water notice, water should not be used for any purpose.
Water can be used in the following ways during a water system pressure advisory; a boil water or E. coli boil water notice; or a do not drink water notice:
- Dishes should be washed with hot, soapy water. One tablespoon of bleach per gallon also could be added as a precaution. Dishes then should be rinsed with boiled water.
- Water will be safe for bathing and washing clothes.
What should I do when an advisory or notice is lifted?
If contamination of the water system did occur, you should flush household pipes, ice makers, water fountains and the like prior to using water for drinking or cooking. Flushing is letting water run to ensure no contaminated water remains in your pipes. Follow these guidelines:
- Run all cold-water faucets in your home for one minute.
- For automatic ice makers, make three batches of ice and discard.
- Run water softeners through a regeneration cycle.
- Run drinking water fountains for one minute.
- Run water coolers with direct water connections for five minutes.
What should I do if my water is not clear?
Following an advisory or notice, you may experience discolored water, which can appear to be red, brown or milky and which can be caused by harmless sediment or air bubbles. To clear the discoloration, the town advises you to run cold water through your bathtub or other faucet for 5 to 10 minutes. If discoloration persists, contact the town immediately.
Whom do I contact for more information?
Call the Hillsborough Water Treatment Plant at 919-732-3621.
FAQ: Water Advisories and Notices (Downloadable version)
Infographic: Making Sense of Water System Advisories and Notices (English and Spanish)