City launches fire hydrant flushing programThe water from your faucets may turn reddish brown, but it’s nothing to be concerned about. This spring, the City of Hastings will be flushing every single fire hydrant in the city, inspecting them and making any repairs needed.
By: Katrina Styx, The Hastings Star-Gazette
The water from your faucets may turn reddish brown, but it’s nothing to be concerned about. This spring, the City of Hastings will be flushing every single fire hydrant in the city, inspecting them and making any repairs needed.
Flushing water through the hydrants serves two purposes. The first is cleaning. Over time, iron deposits tend to settle in the water pipes and collect on the walls, explained Public Works Superintendent Mark Peine and Fire and EMS Director Mike Schutt. When they open up the hydrants and let water flow through them, they agitate the deposits and can wash them out of the pipes.
At the same time, getting each hydrant opened to full flow means staff can tell if the hydrant is working properly or not – something that’s just as important as keeping the lines clean, Schutt said. Firefighters count on hydrants when they respond to a fire. If they can find any broken hydrants and repair them now, they won’t have to worry in case of a fire emergency.
There are 1,310 fire hydrants in the city, including private hydrants (those located on apartment, townhome and hospital grounds, for example). Every single one will be flushed.
Paid on-call firefighters will team up with a public works employee to work the hydrants three at a time, Peine explained. They’ll be starting in the older part of Hastings. Starting with the closest hydrant to a water tower, they’ll put a diffuser on to direct water into the streets rather than in property owners’ yards. The hydrants will be opened slowly until they are at full flow. At first, the water will have a reddish color from the stirred up iron deposits. Clear water indicates the lines are clean. Hydrants will be allowed to flow until the water runs clear. How long it takes to clean the lines varies, Peine said.
“We might have to clean one hydrant only 30 seconds, the next for two hours,” he said.
Once the lines are clean, staff will check to make sure the hydrants drain properly and conduct general maintenance.
Effect on residents
Stirring up the iron in the main water lines may push discolored water into private water lines. Residents may see the water in their homes turn the same reddish color. Residents who notice discolored water in their homes should turn on just their cold water and let it run until it’s clear. If it doesn’t clear up after about a half hour, residents are asked to wait until the following morning and try again, Peine said. If the water isn’t clear by the next morning, they should call Public Works.
While there’s no health risks associated with the discolored water, it may stain clothing. Residents should check their water before doing laundry, Schutt said. If laundry does get stained, they should wash it again. Typically, rewashing will be enough to remove the stains, he said, but if that doesn’t work, residents can contact Public Works, where they will be able to get a product that will remove the stains.
“The key is keeping your clothes wet,” Schutt said.
Once the clothes dry, the stain will set into the fabric.
Hydrant flushing will begin April 9 and continue for six to eight weeks. A map showing where crews will be working will be posted on the City of Hastings website, www.ci.has
tings.mn.us, as well as on the city’s Facebook page. The map will be updated every couple days.
This is the first year hydrant flushing will have been done at this magnitude, but it’s something that Public Works and the fire department want to do more frequently.
“Our goal is to do it annually,” Schutt said.
Because this is a first for the city, there may be some difficulties, Peine said, but he expects kinks to work out in following years. This year, some understanding will be necessary.
“Please have patience with us,” Peine said.
If residents do experience problems, he encouraged them to wait a bit to give the problems a chance to resolve themselves before calling Public Works. Problems that don’t resolve should be referred to Public Works. The phone number is 651-480-6185.
Collaboration in tough times
This year’s hydrant flushing is being done even though Public Works doesn’t have the manpower to do it alone. It’s the collaboration with the fire department, engineering department and even the city’s IT staff that are making it happen, Peine said. Engineering and IT staff got involved by developing a computer program that gives each hydrant a number and stores condition information. Developed in-house, the program will be used in the future to track hydrant maintenance.