People may be dipping our water

The potential for non-legitimate users of fire hydrants to cross-contaminate and squander some of Red Deer’s water supply is real, says a city official.

The potential for non-legitimate users of fire hydrants to cross-contaminate and squander some of Red Deer’s water supply is real, says a city official.

Randy Reaman, water superintendent for the City of Red Deer, said the city is reviewing rules around fire hydrant use after evidence was found last fall of water inside the barrels of several hundred fire hydrants out of the 2,500 total found across the city.

Some of those hydrants may have acquired water inside due to wear and tear or some equipment malfunction.

Reaman said they also suspect that “folks maybe hooking up to a fire hydrant and maybe not letting us know.”

“I am trying to make improvements to it because we think there is potential for abuse in the system,” said Reaman on Friday.

He said the city only has 75 service hydrants, which are supposed to be used by legitimate users such as city parks, public works and roads crews, as well as contractors which have attained the proper permits. The remaining 2,425 city-owned hydrants are used for fighting fires.

The city is now doing a review of its service fire hydrant program, which will hopefully be done by fall. Implementation won’t take place until next year.

Reaman said some contractors may not be aware that they need a permit through Environmental Services.

“It is a service and we don’t want to throw up so many roadblocks that they can’t get their work done, but we do have a responsibility to protect the community’s health and water supply,” he said.

The potential for cross-contamination is there, Reaman said.

“Say someone was mixing pesticides for application for some greenhouse or something, and just went and hooked onto a fire hydrant — he’s filling up his truck and there’s a low-pressure in the system, which can happen.”

Reaman said he’s not sure how much water has been taken out by misuse.

The city inspects its fire hydrants twice a year to ensure they haven’t flooded and are operating properly.

Contractors who are developing in a subdivision where there are no water services may need a fire hydrant for construction purposes.

Before a permit is given, the contractor can have the city attach a metered backflow prevention device directly onto the hydrant. The contractor is billed accordingly. This is the city’s preference, Reaman said.

Otherwise, the vehicle being used is checked to ensure it has a similar backflow device to prevent any cross-contamination. The contractor is given a sticker that is displayed prominently on the vehicle and its tank volume is documented by the city. In this case, the contractor fills out how much water he has used each week and the bill is sent to him for the water used.

The city also issues temporary construction permits, for $65, to companies, which can then access 11 cubic metres of water (11,000 litres). The company is given a temporary meter, usually with a backflow prevention device on it that’s attached.

The meter is read when construction is finished.

The city charges about 60 cents per 1,000 litres, for any water used beyond the 11 cubic metres.