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Old 06-12-2009, 03:35 PM   #1
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Backflow device testing - possible scam?


Hi all,

I have an in-ground sprinkler system in my new house, and this is the first season I've been living there. NYS has regulations that sprinkler backflow prevention devices must be tested annually by a licensed backflow tester (4-day course to get that certification, if anyone is curious -- AFAIK anyone is eligible, not just plumbers). The backflow testing is enforced by my local water dept.

I had a sprinkler company come out Wednesday morning to do the testing. One of the guys took my credit card info and some other details while the second guy fiddled around with the cover to my meter/backflow valve pit (but he never took the cover off. I have no idea what he was doing).

The guy that took my info told me "that's all we need from you -- we'll take it from here", and started walking back to his truck with the other guy. I went back in my house, and watched from the window because I wanted to see how the testing was done.

They drove away.

They'd been parked on the opposite side of the street, so I figured they were just turning around. But they still hadn't come back about 15 min. later when LIPA (my power company) showed up and told me they would be shutting off my power to do maintenance on the power lines feeding my house. That distracted me until I had to leave for work. I was hoping the sprinkler guys would come back while I was gone and leave the testing certification in my mailbox.

When I got home, they'd left nothing. I called the company, left a message, and someone called me back the next morning. She said not to worry: the testing had been completed, and they'd send the paperwork directly to the water department. She was really polite about the whole thing, even though I'd been kinda peeved when I left my message.

So, is it just me, or is this completely fishy? Has anyone heard of this being standard practice or a common scam? Seems to me that they could have done no work, and just sent the town a bogus testing report certifying my device. I/the town would have no way of knowing one way or another.

The company is pretty large and reputable -- their trucks are newish with a complete custom paint job, the guys wore uniforms, and they were listed as backflow testers on the letter I got from the town about needing to have the test done.

The reason I don't think they did any work was that I didn't mow the lawn last weekend, and the grass is getting on the long side. I don't know how they could have gotten the cover back on the pit without some grass catching under the cover. I've taken the covers off my sprinkler distribution boxes, and I know it's nearly impossible. So IMO they didn't even uncover the pit.

Thanks for reading my rambling story.. Maybe I'm being paranoid, so I'd appreciate a sanity check.

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Old 06-12-2009, 04:48 PM   #2
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Backflow device testing - possible scam?


I don't think you are paranoid. You are concerned about where your hard earned monies goes nowadays. This does sound like a scam to me based on what experience I have had with Back-Flow Prevention Device (BPD) testing in Industrial settings. I had the responsibilities of having three (3) units tested annually at our plant. I always stayed on site as the testing was done, even though they could have been pulling the wool over my eyes doing whatever they did. I always received a written test report noting the static/dynamic water pressures and pressure drops before the BPD would work. Even thought these were two ten inch (10") and one sixteen inch (16") lines respectively, they work the same as your sprinkler system. I, ME, would call the company back and ask for a written report on the inspection done for my property and a copy of the report sent to the local authorities. Just my two cents worth, David

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Old 06-13-2009, 11:49 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Thurman View Post
I don't think you are paranoid. You are concerned about where your hard earned monies goes nowadays. This does sound like a scam to me based on what experience I have had with Back-Flow Prevention Device (BPD) testing in Industrial settings. I had the responsibilities of having three (3) units tested annually at our plant. I always stayed on site as the testing was done, even though they could have been pulling the wool over my eyes doing whatever they did. I always received a written test report noting the static/dynamic water pressures and pressure drops before the BPD would work. Even thought these were two ten inch (10") and one sixteen inch (16") lines respectively, they work the same as your sprinkler system. I, ME, would call the company back and ask for a written report on the inspection done for my property and a copy of the report sent to the local authorities. Just my two cents worth, David

The homeowner who is paying the bill for the service should receive a receipt from the company performing the test.
You should file this in your important papers for proof that each year it has been tested. Don't take any Bologna from them get it. You paid for it.
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Old 06-13-2009, 02:47 PM   #4
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Backflow device testing - possible scam?


When testing a backflow assebly, a test kit is used. The kit may be in a case or a looose unit. It should consist of a gage and two or three hoses. The testing is to determine if the check valve assemblies on you backflow assembly are seating properly and within the test guidelines established by the Dept of Health in your state. Billing should have been done after the test in case repairs were needed. Contact your water dept. and ask for the cross connection control supervisor. Find out if he has recieved a current test report fron the company that you hired to test the unit. If not then contact the testers and make sure they turn a copy in to the city and you.
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Old 06-13-2009, 05:28 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by JAC1957 View Post
When testing a backflow assebly, a test kit is used. The kit may be in a case or a looose unit. It should consist of a gage and two or three hoses. The testing is to determine if the check valve assemblies on you backflow assembly are seating properly and within the test guidelines established by the Dept of Health in your state. Billing should have been done after the test in case repairs were needed. Contact your water dept. and ask for the cross connection control supervisor. Find out if he has recieved a current test report fron the company that you hired to test the unit. If not then contact the testers and make sure they turn a copy in to the city and you.
Make sure you get it. You know city government how things disappear.
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Old 06-13-2009, 05:42 PM   #6
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Backflow device testing - possible scam?


Sounds like they just collect the $$ & send the paperwork in
Is there anyway they could have tested anything without removing the cover?
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Old 06-13-2009, 07:53 PM   #7
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Backflow device testing - possible scam?


Testing backflow assemblies requires the installation of fittings and the physical connection of a test kit to the assembly. If there is no service tag attached to the assembly with testers company name on it and date of test that might be an indication that the unit testing was what is known as a "drive by test". It means that the tester did not test the unit, but will report the test using pressure readings from the previous year or just make them up. However, not all companies use test tags and they are not a requirement. You can contact the cross connection control supervisor and tell him that you did not observe the tester and you have a question about if the test was actually done. Explain the situation to them like you did on this forum and see what action they take. Also never pay for a test in advance. Most testers won't ask for payment in advance beause if the unit fails it will need to be repaired or replaced. That means more revenue and a retest. You might also contact BBB and find out if they have a history. Verify with the company that there policy for collecting payment for a job is before the work starts. I hope this helps
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Old 06-14-2009, 10:04 AM   #8
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Backflow device testing - possible scam?


Do not hire someone who rings your doorbell or who is "just" working across the street.

Make the call to a company yourself and schedule an appointment.

Paying by credit card is a good idea. So if the company charged you and never filed the report with the town then you can dispute the charge.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 06-14-2009 at 10:15 AM.
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Old 06-14-2009, 11:54 AM   #9
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Backflow device testing - possible scam?


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Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
Do not hire someone who rings your doorbell or who is "just" working across the street.

Make the call to a company yourself and schedule an appointment.
Solid advice. I did call them for an appt. off a list that the town sent out, BTW.

UPDATE: I opened my meter pit yesterday (not supposed to do that, AFAIK, but whatever).

There are shutoff valves surrounding the backflow device, I suppose so that it can be isolated for testing. They were covered in dirt, dead grass, and other crap you'd find in a hole in the ground. No way they were turned recently.

Also, the shutoff valve for my sprinkler system is in the pit. They "forgot" to turn it on..

Finally, I'm going to have to post a new thread on here because in the sprinkler control box right next to the meter pit, 2 wire nuts "disappeared" and the electrical connections to the middle valve were disconnected. I don't want to claim sabotage, but the wire nuts didn't crawl out of the box (maybe ants took it??)..
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Old 06-14-2009, 11:55 AM   #10
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Backflow device testing - possible scam?


PS - Thanks for your advice, everyone! I will definitely be getting this paperwork myself, and I'll find out from the water dept. what they got, if anything.

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