Every year like clockwork since I have lived in the city limits of Hermiston, the city sends, in the water bill, an official-looking paper insert, Notice of Backflow Testing Requirement For Customers.

It almost looks like a legal document, some words in caps, some underlined, some in bold print, with drawings and a state of Oregon Health Authority list of backflow assembly testers. Each year I have paid my $50 to a private contractor to get a piece of paper that keeps me in the good graces of the city fathers.

I started asking questions. How do they make sure everybody complies? What is the penalty for non compliance?

I talked to the water department of the city. This is what I found: There are about 5,000 residential hookups. Last year about 1,400 households complied and had their systems tested. About 300 households certified that they didn’t have to comply because of the type of system they have. So about 3,300 households thumbed their nose at the city with no repercussions. I talked to several friends around the city and many of them have never complied.

As the city water department explains, this is a state law and the city complies simply by sending out the proclamation and sending in a report to the state of the compliance numbers.

My point: If the backflow testing is important to the citizens’ health and safety, make everybody that meets the requirement do the test.

There are cities around the area that compile lists of hookups that need backflow testing, hire firms to do the testing and add the fee to the water bills. This seems to be a simple cure if the health and safety of our citizens is threatened by not testing.

So for the foreseeable future, my only act of civil disobedience will be to save $50 until the city becomes more invested in my health and safety or turns my water off for not backflow testing.

George Koffler


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