Clearing Clouds: Orange City replacing broken hydrants

By BOB KOSLOW
Staff Writer

Last update: 16 September 2003


ORANGE CITY -- Cloudy drinking water isn't the only problem residents are complaining about as the city nears the end of fire hydrant tests.

About a dozen hydrants were found inoperable during recent tests after nearly a two-year break in the city program. Another dozen hydrants need repairs.

"Ride around the block. We've got hydrants bagged and taped up. They don't work," said Betty Huston, who lives in northeast Orange City. "What if we have a house fire. There's no hydrant and our homes will burn down."

Measures are in place to assure adequate protection, Fire Chief Chris Sievert said Tuesday.

"We have already begun replacing hydrants that do not work. Two were replaced this week and nine more are scheduled," he said. "They all should be replaced in about two weeks."



In the meantime, broken hydrant locations are logged at the county dispatch center. City firefighters are directed to the closest hydrant where hoses are connected and run to engines on the scene.

"We have excellent hydrant coverage through most of the city. Between 90 to 95 percent of the city is within 1,000 feet of a hydrant," Sievert said.

The 1,000-foot national standard is used by insurance companies when grading municipal fire protection services.

Within days of finding a hydrant needing maintenance, city utility crews apply grease and oil the valves, Sievert said.

The city has about 150 hydrants, with 50 more in the unincorporated areas served by the city water system. The hydrant test program was halted in 2001 because of the drought.

Staffing problems also hindered the department until two firefighters and a fire inspector were hired this year.

County hydrants using city water were tested last year. The county paid the city $5,000 to check its hydrants. However, no tests were done on city hydrants last year.

This year's tests began in late July on hydrants in the northern part of the city. Notices were included in July water bills that the testing might cause water to become cloudy with sediment. Residents along North Orange Avenue have complained about milky and even brown water since the tests started. City officials advise customers to let the tap run a few minutes until the water clears.

Hydrant testing in the south end of the city should be complete late this week or early next week, Sievert said.

The hydrant system is expanding because city building codes require developers to install hydrants. However, many old and smaller hydrants need to be replaced, Sievert said.

bob.koslow@news-jrnl.com