Fixing broken Columbia fire hydrants - - Columbia, South Carolina

Fixing broken Columbia fire hydrants

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - WIS News 10 was the first to tell you about the hundreds of hydrants in Columbia that were broken and useless. A hydrant on the corner of Gadsden and Abbeville Streets was one of 369 hydrants in Columbia that didn't work.

Homeowners and residents like Jane Still didn't know until we told them, "I think it shows a sign of negligence on somebody's part."

After WIS News 10's story on the broken hydrant, the city replaced it. Now, hydrant technician Ryan Gore makes sure it works, and it does - 1,000 gallons a minute. "This is it. This is probably as good as it gets."

Another broken hydrant was on Zimmalcrest Drive. The city replaced it, too.

That was almost four years ago. Since our reports, the city has made a lot of progress on the hydrant problem. Is it enough?

On Haven Drive near Greenlawn, a city work crew installs the six-inch iron pipe that will feed new fire hydrants. It's one result of the city's program to repair and upgrade hundreds of broken or sub-standard hydrants, a program underway for several years.

Chief Bradley Anderson of the Columbia Fire Department says, "There's been a concerted effort by both the fire department and the utilities and engineering department to identify fire hydrants that are out of service and to get those hydrants repaired as quickly as practical."

When WIS News 10 spoke with Chief Anderson last week, the city had 66 hydrants that needed fixing. That's a far cry from what we found almost three years ago.

In June 2004, the number of problem hydrants in the Columbia area stood at 369. Some of those hydrants had been damaged because they were hit by cars or trucks.

In other cases, the hydrants had a severe restriction of water flow because they were attached to some really old pipes - dating back as far as 1904. While the pipes were often intact, a century's worth of corrosion and crud called for a thorough cleaning that could double the water flow in some situations.

On Haven, the city is literally breaking new ground, putting hydrants there for the first time. Officials say ideally, they'd like to have all hydrants working at full capacity. They say in a system that includes nearly 13,000 outlets it's only realistic to expect a few dozen will always be out of commission for one reason or another.

"I have some knowledge of other systems and I think that any water system is going to have a certain number of fire hydrants with issues on it. This is a very small percentage," says Chief Anderson.

Having a well-maintained hydrant nearby might help homeowners sleep at night, and it could lower their insurance bills.

But firefighters do have alternatives. The city's pumpers can carry 1,000 feet of hose and 750 gallons of water.

"The business we're in is dealing with emergency situations and that includes any kind of emergency with our water supply and being able to adapt and use a different hydrant, use water off the trucks, obviously," says Anderson.

That's good, because Columbia provides service well outside the city limits in areas that don't have hydrants of any kind - working or not.

Reported by Jack Kuenzie

Posted by Chantelle Janelle

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