Hydrant Flow a Problem for Pittsburgh Crews

Team 4 obtained records showing one out of every 10 hydrants in the city of Pittsburgh does not have enough water pressure to meet federal standards -- but it's not just a problem in the city. (Salem Township, Oct. 11) -- This home in...


Team 4 obtained records showing one out of every 10 hydrants in the city of Pittsburgh does not have enough water pressure to meet federal standards -- but it's not just a problem in the city.

(Salem Township, Oct. 11) -- This home in Westmoreland County burned out of control for two hours. The reason? Frustrated firefighters could not get enough water from the closest hydrant.

Assistant Chief David Mutnansky, Forbes Road Volunteer Fire Department: "The hydrant we have is a very low pressure hydrant. Usually, we can just flow water out of it down to the trucks. Now, we actually have to draft the water, suck it out of the hydrant. That's the major problem -- just getting water to the scene."

Luckily, no one was home at the time. After the fire, the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County checked the hydrant and found it working. They don't know why the water wasn't flowing.

(Nov. 12, 2006) -- They also investigated this fire four years ago in McKeesport. A young family's home burned after firefighters could not get enough water from area hydrants.

Tammy Hayes' daughter and granddaughter lived in the house, next door to her own house.

Tammy Hayes: "They tried all three fire hydrants in the area, and not one worked. They couldn't get any pressure out of any of them."

Records obtained by Team 4 show this hydrant just a block from her house was pumping just 225 gallons of water per minute -- less than half the national standard of 500 gallons per minute.

Even worse, this hydrant just down the block from her house pumped just 200 gallons per minute.

Hayes: "They need to do something about it. There's a lot of houses up on this hill and they all could go up. And what are they going to do about it then?"

Team 4 took her concerns to the water authority.

Chris Kerr, Westmoreland Municipal Authority: "It is an area we are looking at upgrading, and we're trying to allocate money in next year's budget to improve."

But records show 20 percent of the McKeesport hydrants tested fail to meet federal standards. And the authority does not have the money to fix all of them.

As bad as some of those hydrants in McKeesport are, this one in Squirrel Hill is even worse -- 132 gallons per minute. That's just a quarter of the minimum flow required by federal standards. And it's right across the street from an elementary school.

When we told parents of kids going to Minadeo Elementary about the hydrant, they were shocked.

Jasonta Deen, parent: "If there's a fire and the hydrant isn't functioning properly, how are they going to get the fire out? That's a serious safety concern."

Team 4 took parents' concerns to the head of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority .

Van Osdol: "Is there a risk to having a really low flow hydrant by a school?"

Michael Kenney, PWSA Director: "If it was the only source, yes."

There are other hydrants near the school, but they have not been tested for water flow. In fact, only 40 percent of Pittsburgh's 7,300 hydrants have been tested.

Van Osdol: "Is it a concern that you have thousands of hydrants that haven't been flow-tested?"

Kenney: "Yes. It is a concern of mine. It's something we need to do."

These two across the street from Allegheny General Hospital have been tested, and both of them flow at less than a third of the minimum standard.

And both the hydrants on Carnegie Place in Point Breeze are less than half the minimum.

Miriam Gomez, resident: "Someone better do something about it. This is dangerous."

Van Osdol: "What can you say to people who, really, are frankly scared about a fire occurring in their house?"

Kenney: "That our goal is to be sure that every fire hydrant meets the current minimum."

The Allegheny County fire marshal says he's seen too many fires that raged out of control because firefighters could not get enough water.

This content continues onto the next page...