Sometimes, the most boring, boilerplate city regulations can have massive implications.

In the summer of 2019, the City of Vancouver started cracking down on businesses and residences to install backflow prevention assemblies and have them professionally tested on an annual basis. The devices prevent the backwards flow of contaminated water into our drinking water supply and their absence or failure has been the cause of many chemical contamination issues, particularly in the U.S.

Around the same time, Vancouver-based Red Seal plumber Stuart MacDonald decided to start Vancouver Backflow Testing to provide services at a lower rate than some of the bigger companies.

“It’s always been a law, but it wasn’t really enforced,” MacDonald notes. His business was a success almost instantly. When entrepreneurs and homeowners alike would get letters imploring them to get their backflow devices installed or tested they would Google “Vancouver backflow test”. So yeah, not a bad business model.

But when COVID struck and many restaurants and other businesses had to close, the letters from the city didn’t stop coming. The city has also been going door-to-door to make sure people have backflow assemblies installed.

“I got all these calls from restaurants saying that they had to install these devices and pay fees when they’re not even open,” MacDonald says.

Backflow devices are required to be installed on water connections to various fixtures commonly used in food service such as dishwashers, steamers, ice machines, and espresso makers. So when restaurants had to close indoor dining again in March, it was a devastating blow. 

MacDonald wants to do his part to help. He’s offering free backflow testing for 2021 (average cost per visit: $320) to the first 100 Vancouver restaurants that contact him.

Interested restaurants can email to schedule a date and time.