Barry Stephens speaks on Backflow Prevention at Lunch and Learn

On Thursday, September 22, 2016 Barry Stephens with the City of Lubbock Water Utilities

Barry Stephens with the City of Lubbock Water Utilities Dept. speaks on Backflow Prevention at the Lunch and Learn event at TTUHSC

Barry Stephens with the City of Lubbock Water Utilities Dept. speaks on Backflow Prevention at the Lunch and Learn event at TTUHSC

Department spoke on How a Municipal Water System Works…or Things I really Didn’t Want to Know at a “Lunch and Learn” hosted by Renee Witherspoon, CSP, CIH, CHMM, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) Occupational Safety Manager. Renee is the Past President of ASSE South Plains Chapter and President of the Panhandle/West Texas Chapter of the Texas Environmental Health Association (TEHA).

Barry is also one of the foremost experts on the topic of Backflow Prevention and provided insight to the causes of backflow and importantly, how to prevent it.  

In his presentation he covered how the distribution system works, the definition of

Water Distribution System Schematic

Water Distribution System Schematic

backflow and that backflow can even occur inside the plumbing system of commercial businesses or residences, never leaving the property.

He also covered the regulations in 30 TAC 290 that requires all municipalities since 1996 to create and maintain a backflow prevention program AKA Cross Connection Control program.

Key regulations state:

  • An adequate internal cross-connection control program shall include an annual inspection and testing by a certified backflow prevention assembly tester on all backflow prevention assemblies used for health hazard protection.
  • And, that it will be the responsibility of the water purveyor to ensure that these requirements are met.

Since the rules requiring municipalities to have a Cross Connection Control program are not based on theory but based on actual events, Barry provided some examples of where problems have happened including a Dialysis Machine contamination incident and being Burned in the Shower when a water system was contaminated with Sodium Hydroxide.

At the conclusion of the Lunch and Learn Barry provided a demonstration of how simple atmospheric pressure can cause backflow and lead to contamination.

The Lunch and Learn was broadcast from TTUHSC’s Lubbock Campus, and was TechLinked to campuses in Abilene, Amarillo, El Paso and Odessa.  For those attendee’s requesting continuing education credit a SurveyMonkey test was provided so that they could receive 1-hour of credit. The following is that link:


Barry is the Past President of the Texas Water Utilities Association (TWUA), a TCEQ Instructor and is licensed as a Backflow Prevention Assembly Tester (BPAT) in Texas. On behalf of TTUHSC, ASSE and TEHA, thank you Barry and the City of Lubbock Water Utilities Department for coming out and providing such an excellent presentation for us.

Barry can be contacted at:

A copy of his presentation is available here: how-a-municipal-water-system-works-backflow-prevention-9-22-16

July TEHA Meeting in Austin

by Renee Witherspoon, RS, CSP, CIH, CHMM, TEHA Panhandle/West Texas Chapter President (2015-2016) and ASSE South Plains Chapter President (2011-2014)

On July 15, 2016 I will have the opportunity to attend the Texas Environmental Health Association (TEHA) State Governing Council (GC) meeting in Austin to represent the Panhandle/West Texas Chapter and it’s members.

This has been a very active year so far for TEHA.  We’ve had some excellent training programs, nominated members for awards and honors and are in the process of updating TEHA Chapter finances to QuickBooks with the help of our Chapter Treasurer and Immediate Past-President, Stevan Walker, REHS/RS, CPO.  Thank you Stevan!

I’ve placed all of my recent Chapter updates in a two-page newsletter called, TEHA Handout 7-15-16 Update  I hope you will be able to review it because talks about some of the most amazing people I know – our Chapter members!  Kudo’s also too our Chapter Leadership as they have really stepped up this year to make my turn as President very rewarding.  And I can say, challenging too.

If you’re involved in any organization like TEHA (or ASSE), you have to be a multi-tasker, being able to balance work and family with volunteer efforts.  Talk to anyone in a volunteer leadership position and they will tell you that it can take many hours to complete the requirements of that office, but it’s worth it!  It’s worth it because you know that you’re not working for yourself, you’re working to benefit the organization and its members.  And when even one person is successful in something, we all benefit, our profession benefits and we contribute to the body of knowledge for future generations to stand on.

One of the requests our TEHA Executive Director, Jodie Halter, MS, RS,  has asked the Presidents was to help find members that can write articles for the TEHA publication, The Beacon. When I spoke with TEHA Chapter member Chris Saxton, Sanitary Services Manager with the El Paso Department of Health, he said that he could write an article about the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) conference that was recently held in San Antonio.

He finished his article and it’s excellent.  He brought up some excellent points about the importance of networking and building contacts and relationships.  In that we can learn how other jurisdictions are tackling problems and then take that information back to use in our situations.

So thank you Chris for sharing your thoughts of the NEHA event, and it has been published to this site.  I am looking forward to what you’ll have to say after you return from the next NEHA event in Michigan and am glad that your organization understands the value in sending professionals to conferences so that they can continue to expand their expertise.

Lot of things are happening right now in TEHA and if you’re a member, you might feel tired or discouraged.  Think of it as a challenge, a test.  You will only lose if you quit – so don’t quit  (Phil. 4:13).  Might actually learn something about yourself, that you’re tougher and stronger than you think. Persevere and you’ll make it through, and wave at me as you’re going by because I’m right there with you.  It will turn out good (Rom. 8:28).

Now, I’m ready for my next adventure to Austin.


Additional handouts for TEHA Chapter Members are below and are also published at

TEHA Member Chris Saxton attends National Environmental Conference in San Antonio in June 2016

By Chris Saxton,  MPH-EH,  REHS / RS, Sanitary Services Manager, El Paso Department of Health 

I was able to attend the National Environmental Health Association’s (NEHA) annual conference in San Antonio this year.  I was fortunate that the director of the health department, and the leadership in El Paso understood the importance of attending the NEHA conference and provided me the opportunity to go.  I have also attended past NEHA conferences in Orlando, Las Vegas and San Diego.

NEHA Conference (1)

My overall impression of the conference this year was very positive.  The location was great being on the river walk in San Antonio, and the conference educational schedule was also excellent.  The only negative I could think of was they decided to hold the conference in two different hotels.  They held the educational sessions in one hotel for the first two days and then switched to another hotel for the last two days.  I did not think this was convenient for the attendees, but the hotels were in walking distance from each other so that was a plus.

NEHA held their conference in conjunction with the Healthy Homes Conference this year, which made the conference feel much larger.  There were 150 educational seminars under 22 main education tracks that included food protection, air quality, emergency preparedness, emerging environmental health issues, healthy homes, leadership, recreational waters, schools, climate change, health impact assessments, informatics and general environmental health.  The conference offered 24 hours of continuing education for those needing it for their certifications.

NEHA Conference (5)The seminars were interesting and I learned a lot at the conference.  A seminar on the 25 questions EH managers wanted answered about job candidates was of particular interest in the leadership track.  With the amount of training and preparation we have to put into a new inspector to get them ready for the field; finding the right person for the job is one of the most important steps to take as a supervisor or manager for a successful program.

A seminar from the Denver Health Department on how their local regulation of marijuana is progressing and the lessons learned was also interesting.  You never know when your own jurisdiction may try to implement such a new program and more than likely, environmental health will be tasked with helping to put such a program together.   I spent the rest of my time in the food safety, leadership and emergency preparedness seminars.  Almost all the educational seminars had some information or processes that I could take back to help improve my own programs.

One of the other advantages to coming to a NEHA conference is to network and get to know the sanitarians and other environmental health personnel from all over the country.  I always try to get business cards and build contacts with people I meet at the conference.  Learning how other jurisdictions tackle a certain problem or talking with them about their own lessons learned on a situation can help you immensely in your own jurisdiction.  I have found most of the contacts I made are quite willing to share information and have been very helpful when dealing with new situations or helping with input when putting a new program together.

NEHA Conference (3)The NEHA conference always has a large exhibitor hall with various vendors and organizations.  You can find many of the large food inspection software companies, swimming pool equipment companies and many other vendors with environmental health products.  There are also many organizations with booths in the exhibitor hall such as the American Public Health Association (APHA), National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that provide information and other items to attendees.

I encourage sanitarians and other environmental health professionals to attend the NEHA conference, if provided the opportunity by your organization.  The next NEHA conference will be in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I plan on attending the conference and would be glad to see more TEHA members there!


About the author:

Chris Saxton, El Paso Health Department

Chris Saxton, El Paso Health Department

Chris currently works as the Sanitary Services Manager at the City of El Paso, Department of Health where he manages the environmental health program.  He has a bachelor’s degree in Biology from University of Missouri Columbia, and a Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in environmental health from the University of Illinois.  He is a registered environmental health specialist and registered sanitarian (REHS/RS) and a professional member of the West Texas/Panhandle Chapter of the Texas Environmental Health Association (TEHA)

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