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An ordinance that would require some commercial property owners to have their backflow prevention devices inspected annually is set to go before the Helena City Commission for a final vote Monday night, but even if it passes, some technicalities would have to be worked out before it would be implemented.

Backflow is essentially water that reverses direction, coming from private plumbing back into the city’s delivery system, thus creating potential health hazards. A selection of valves can prevent those occurrences and city code requires the installation of such devices at various points of service.

Though both residential and commercial properties are affected by those stipulations, the new ordinance would focus only on the latter and only businesses that would pose more significant backflow concerns because of substances or products they utilize — including restaurants that use particular carbonation or soda machines, said city Utilities Superintendent Kevin Hart.

But who exactly would be affected by the new ordinance has yet to be determined, though Hart’s rough estimate is that 600 commercial properties could be included. At the moment, city workers are in the process of surveying hundreds of Helena businesses, noting what they do and where backflow installations and checks might be needed.

If the ordinance passed, the city would compile a list of the businesses that would need to do the testing and establish a timeline for submitting results, as well as assemble a list of the individuals certified to do the inspections, Hart said.

General estimates the city has cited place the inspections at about $75 a year, though Hart said they could end up costing less than that. Regardless, it’s an expense the property owners would have to pay themselves if they don’t already do so.

A public hearing over the measure was held at the commission’s April 11 meeting. The upcoming Monday night meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Commission Chambers on the third floor of the City-County Building on Park Avenue. A complete agenda for the evening can be found at http://helenapublic.novusagenda.com.

Reporter Allison Maier: 447-4075 or allison.maier@helenair.com

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