Frequently Asked Questions

Why does this matter to me?

A cross connection is a point in a plumbing system where the potable (drinking) water supply is connected to a non-potable source. Pollutants or contaminants can enter the drinking water system through uncontrolled cross connections when back flow occurs. Cross connections are found in all plumbing systems It is important that each cross connection be identified and evaluated as to the type of back flow protection required to protect the drinking water.

Some cross connections include: 

  • wash basins and sinks
  • hose bibs
  • irrigation sprinkler systems
  • swimming pools
  • reuse water lines

A backflow is just what it sounds like: the water is flowing in the opposite direction from its normal flow. With the direction of the flow reversed, due to a change in pressures, backflow can allow contaminants to enter our drinking water system through cross connections. There are two types of backflow: backsiphonage and backpressure. Backsiphonage is caused by a negative pressure in the supply line to a facility or plumbing fixture. A few ways backsiphonage may occur are during waterline breaks, when repairs are made to the waterlines, and when shutting off the water supply. Backpressure can occur when the potable water supply is connected to another system operated at a higher pressure or has the ability to create pressure, etc. Principal causes are booster pumps, pressure vessels, and elevated plumbing. Of particular concern are homes on our system that also have private wells, customers with reuse water hook-ups, or yard irrigation systems where backflow or backsiphonage can occur. Interconnection through plumbing errors is sometimes found to be a cause of cross-contamination.

Why Should I be Concerned?

Backflow can cause contaminants to enter our drinking water system. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection categorizes possible contamination hazards as either high or low:

High - any substance that, if introduced to the public water system, could cause illness, death, or spread diseases. Examples include industrial fluids or waste. 

Low - any substance that, if introduced to the public water system, would not be a health hazard but would constitute a nuisance or be aesthetically objectionable. Examples include pollutants which would affect the color or odor of the water. 

What Can I do to Prevent Contamination?

  • Keep the ends of hose clear of all possible contaminants.
  • Buy and install hose bib type vacuum breakers on all threaded faucets in and around your home (if not already equipped with a built-in vacuum breaker.
  • Install an approved back flow prevention assembly on all undergroun dlawn irrigation systems. 
  • Don't leave hoses on the ground, or submerge them in buckets, pools, tubs, sinks, ponds, etc. 
  • Don't use spray attachments (like lawn fertilizers or herbicides/pesticides) without a backflow prevention device. 
  • Don't connect waste pipes from water softeners or other treatment systems to the sewer, submerged drain pipe, etc. 
  • Don't use a hose to unplug blocked toilets, sewers, etc. 
  • Don't connect reuse lines to the drinking water supply.

 

 

Disaster Preparedness Information, published in accordance with FL Statute 252.355

All persons with special needs who would require assistance during evacuation and sheltering because of physical, mental, cognitive impairment, or sensory disabilities can register their needs through the Volusia County Office of Emergency Management. The registration form is available by calling (386) 423-3395.

In accordance with Florida Statute 119.071

The UC collects your Social Security number for the following purposesL customer credit checks; customer identification and verification; customer billing and paymen, and, other lawful purposes necessary to conduct UC business. Please be aware there may be situations whereby the UC must release Social Security numbers for other purposed as required by Florida law. 

The Utilities Commission is in full compliance with the Fair & Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, which requires the Utilities Commission to have a formal Identity Theft Prevention Program "Red Flag". This program has been designed and implemented to identify, detect, precvent, and mitigate theft in connection with opening a utility account or an existing account. 

WE CARE is a Utilities Commission fund for donations from our amazing customers to assist others in our community who may need help paying their utility bills. The donations go directly to the Volusia County Human Services division for distribution. 
 
Human Services can be reached at 386-423-3309 or by visiting https://www.volusia.org/services/community-services/community-assistance/human-services/
 
Customers can contribute to We Care while paying their utility by simply checking the We Care box on the top of their payment stub and indicating the amount of the donation on the  line provided below the box. If they wish to contribute and are not doing it in conjunction with a bill payment, they can mail us a check or drop one in the night deposit box, with a note indicating that it is a We Care contribution.

 

The Utilities Commission adminsters the charge for these services for City of New Smyrna Beach residents. We do not adminster the services. For information regarding trash and recycling services in NSB, contact the City's Maintenance Operations Department at 386-424-2212.

For Volusia County residents, contact the Solid Waste Division at 386-423-3862.

What are my options for Seasonal Disconnect?

For those customers who reside in the greater New Smyrna Beach area for part of the year, we offer a "seasonal disconnect" provision, which allows customers to save money by not paying base rates on water and wastewater while they are not in use. Should consumption be noted during this time, the customer will be billed the base rate, usage, and cut-in fee with the next regular billing cycle. Please provide Customer Service with advance notice of yoru departure and/or arrival to ensure utilities are turned off/on in a timely manner. Please also provide Customer Service with your out-of-area mailing address and contact phone number. Regular cut-in/cut-out fees will apply.

Every home's usage is unique, but there are four common reasons bills go up and down from month to month:

  • Differences in weather
  • The number of people in the house
  • Increase or decrease in appliances/electronics use
  • The number of days in your billing cycle. 

 

The Gross Receipts Tax is assessed by the State of Florida. The tax is imposed on gross receipts from utility services delivered to any consumer in the state. The tax collected is a percentage of the electric charges. 

The City/County Tax is a municipal public service tax collected by the UC on behalf of either the City of New Smyrna Beach or the County of Volusia, depending on whether you live within the city limits or in the county. Both the City and the County assess a tax of 10% of your electric charges, minus non-taxable fuel costs. Any questions about the county tax can be directed to (386)423-3325, or email: revenue@co.volusia.fl.us. Any questions about the city tax can be directed to (386)424-2120.

Sales Tax is assessed on General Service (commercial) meters only and is assessed by the State of Florida and County of Volusia. Total electric charges plus gross receipts tax are assessed at 7% by the State and .5% by the County. 

Garbage fees for customers living within the city limits are assessed by the City of New Smyrna Beach. Garbage and yard waste administration is managed by the City. Any questions can be directed to (386) 424-2212.

The base rate on your utility bill is a fixed charge on every bill, regardless of usage, to cover the costs of system readiness, billing, accounting, and meter reading. 

The fuel adjustment charge is a direct pass through of fuel costs to produce and deliver your electricity. Fuel and purchased power costs are the largest single variable expense for electric utilities, and they can vary greatly on the basis of supply and demand, and other factors. Under utility regulations. these expenses are passed along to customers at cost, through a charge on their bill commonly referred to as a "fuel adjustment fee." Utilities do not profit from increase fuel and purchased power costs.

Customers who are medically dependent on electric-powered equipment and require non-interruption of electrical service to prevent immediate loss-of-life or hospitalization can request registration with the UC to ensure notification in the event of service disconnection due to non-payment of a bill, or of a scheduled outage for repairs or upgrading of service. 

The registration and certification DOES NOT guarantee uninterrupted service. Our crews put forth their utmost effort to maintain our equipment in good working order, but the UC cannot promise 100% uninterrupted service. Other events, including severe weather, failure of equipment, or outside elements causing damage to equipment may cause un-avoidable interruptions of service. We strongly recommend you have a back-up system available, such as a home generator, to provide electric current for the medically-essential equipment, or a place to go in the event of an extended outage. 

The registration and certification will be effective for one year from the date it is received in the UC office. Re-certification by your physican will be necessary on an annual basis. If you move, you must contact the UC to let us know your new address. 

The form is available here or by calling the Electric Operations Department at (386) 424-3169.

 

 

Older homes may experience deterioration of plumbing which can contribute to metallic taste or some discoloration. Seasoning of pipes in brand new homes may affect taste or clarity and that should improve over time. Discoloration of sinks, tubs, and shower heads may be from an airborne mold and not from water. Sediment may be from filters, heaters or deterioration of plumbing. 
If you have any questions about your water quality, please contact the "Water Quality Hotline" at 386-424-3184.

There is no need to treat your water. That is what we do. But individual taste preferences vary, and filters are one way to alter taste. Filters need to be maintained to be effective and to eliminate odors (see above). Softeners strip the natural minerals and replace calcium and magnesium with sodium, presenting possible high sodium water. Water stripped of minerals becomes aggressive in trying to re-dissolve minerals and may affect skin and other areas. We maintain a healthy balance between hard and softened water to maximize aesthetic qualities and minimize undesirable side effects.
 

Indepth information from the EPA, along with FAQs, regarding fluoride:

EPA Questions and Answers on Fluoride

By definition, absolutely pure water should be tasteless. Flavor comes from dissolved substances, whether they are naturally occurring, such as dissolved limestone, or introduced, such as chloramines for disinfection. Well water will taste differently from municipally treated water. Softened water will taste different from water with prominent mineral content. We strive to keep the water as close to its natural state as possible.

This is likely to occur when water becomes stagnant, causing chlorine levels to drop to zero, or when the water sitting in the “trap” of the drains evaporates and allows gas to seep in from the drain lines. This happens mostly in homes of part-time occupation. Filters on faucet or shower heads may collect sediment and develop an odor, as can hot water heaters (which should be flushed 1 to 2 times annually).
 

 

What is a “free chlorine conversion”?

A free chlorine conversion is a process by which a water system switches its disinfection process from chloramines (a combination of chlorine and ammonia) to free chlorine in order to improve the long-term quality of its drinking water.

 

Why is the Utilities Commission implementing a “free chlorine conversion”?

To improve the overall water quality in our distribution system by preventing or eliminating discoloration problems from minerals, biofilm or nitrification.

 

Does the “free chlorine conversion” pose any health risks?  Will the water be safe to drink and use?

The process is entirely safe and poses no health risks to customers. The water is safe to drink, and customers can use the water as normal.

 

Is this the first time that the Utilities Commission has implemented a free chlorine conversion?

No, the Utilities Commission has been doing the conversions since 2016.

 

Are “free chlorine conversions” a common practice among water systems?

Yes. This is a common industry standard for preventative maintenance in drinking water distribution systems. Many utilities throughout the country that use chloramines for their primary distribution disinfectant convert to free chlorine on an “as needed” basis.

 

Why all the flushing?

The Utilities Commission must directionally flush to maintain clear water for our customers and to ensure the free chlorine conversion has made it to the far reaches of our distribution system. Flushing should significantly subside after the termination of the conversion.

 

How long will the “free chlorine conversion” last?

The duration of the “free chlorine conversion” will be approximately 6 weeks, 2x/year.

 

Will I need to do anything differently during the conversion?

No action is necessary during the conversion. Customers may drink and use their water as normal.

 

My water has a strong chlorine smell. What is going on?

A chlorine smell is very normal during the conversion period, as the disinfectant is transitioning from chloramines to free chlorine. Chlorine concentrations maintained during the conversion will be well within FDOH and EPA standards and will be entirely safe to consume and use as normal.

 

I have additional questions, who should I contact?

Scott Heil,  Water Production Supervisor 386-424-3191

Shiloh Wagers, Laboratory Supervisor 386-424-3184

 

How can I use it?

Reuse water is domestic wastewater which has been treated and disinfected to a high degree such that it can be safely used to irrigate golf courses and residential landscapes. Utilizing reuse water conserve drinking water supplies and reduces discharge of domestic wastewater to surface waters. Although reuse water meets most of the drinking water standards and is safe for human contact, it is not intended for use as drinking water. The UC's policy is that reuse water can be utilized for irrigation purposes only, and only with approved underground system that has an in-line control valve. No hose bibs are allowed with this service. Reuse water is permitted for use on lawn and landcaped areas but not for items such as: human consumption, washing vehicles, and/or animals, and filling pools and/or tubs, and watering a few certain edible vegetables and/or fruits. In addition, no interconnections with another water source are allowed, not are connections to water-cooled air conditioners, or in-house plumbing systems. Reuse cannot be shared with a neighbor or used with an above ground spigot connection. 

Please keep these considerations in mind when using reuse so that no problems arise. If you hva any questions, please call the Water Resources Department Information Line at 386-424-3184.

 

There is not enough reuse flow available for every customer to have this product supplied. It takes approx. 3-4 domestic sewer customers to provide enough irrigation volume for 1 reuse connection.

Established developed areas will not likely get reuse service. Retrofitting already developed areas with a completely new network of pipes for reuse supply is not practical. It is too costly due to excessive disruption of paving, sidewalks and driveways, and it is too much of a burden on resident’s normal quality of life.
NOTE: Our policy is that new developments with access to existing reuse distribution mains install new reuse distribution piping along with new potable water mains, sewer mains, etc. BEFORE streets are constructed, so construction costs are reasonably managed.

As we all know potable water is a vital commodity which should be justifiably conserved.  All regulatory agencies, such as Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Health, and St Johns River Water Management District, place restrictions on potable water for varying purposes and protections.  Potable water flushing from fire hydrants is not inherent to the U.C., it is an integral part of maintaining water quality and protection of the public in all water systems.  Routine system flushing is absolutely necessary with a chloramine residual.  Distribution systems have piping designed for fire capacity and with current conservation levels by consumers, flushing makes up the difference to keep water meeting disinfectant residuals within potable water standards.

Water mains are flushed to allow freshly treated water to move through the pipes to meet the standards for active disinfectant in the water at the time of sampling. [and flush out any sediments and reduce turbidity].  If possible, the water is flushed into grassy areas. Flushing is a requirement for circulation in the extremities of a service area, to maintain mandatory chlorine residual in any low usage areas and ensures compliance with operating permits.  Regulatory test sample thresholds are increasingly becoming narrower and operationally more difficult to meet.  Bottom Line – After leaving the plant the water must be used within an exact amount of time before the disinfectant (an oxidant) loses its capability to do its job.  Flushing is our means to accomplish this when water use by customers is insufficient. In some places you’ll see a small yellow box on the side of the hydrants equipped with timed release, automated flushing device. In other places you notice our water quality, field technicians manually operating hydrants for the same purpose.

Potable water treatment processes at the U.C. are continually being evaluated and system modifications performed to diminish flushing volumes and enhance the chloramine performance in our distribution system. Examples of best practices for this purpose are detection and repair of leaking pipes, eliminations of redundant piping [situations], installation of chlorine booster pumps if needed, as well as periodic comprehensive free chlorine treatments of our system.  Realized by-products of a well maintained water distribution system, beyond health, safety, and ultimately conservation of our drinking water, are also hydraulic capacity improvements and reductions in the re-growth of biofilm and disinfection demand, which correlates into performance improvements and reduced operating costs. 

Pressure decreases when demand increases. This happens when most of our part-time residents are here, or during holiday periods. It also occurs between midnight and 6 a.m., due to filling our storage and distribution tanks and routine flushing of lines.