Fire authority unhappy with U.S. 10-31 hydrant locks.

September 22, 2014

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — The Mason County Rural Fire Authority has expressed that it does not favor fire hydrants being locked along the U.S. 10-31 corridor. The hydrants, maintained by the Scottville Department of Public Works, have been locked since 2008.

In August, fire authority representative Bill Lehrbass attended a city commission meeting and questioned the purpose of the locks. He also expressed the fire authority’s dissatisifaction with the locks.

Recently, the fire authority board has sent a letter to the city of Scottville requesting the city remove the locks. The city commission is expected to discuss this issue at its regular meeting tonight at 5:30 p.m.

“The reasoning for putting on the locks was we were getting people hooking up to the hydrants and stealing water which was accounting for our higher water loss numbers,” City Manager Amy Williams explained to the commissioners in a pre-meeting memo. .  “Also, there is always a chance the people could contaminate the water source by these illegal hook-ups as they aren’t using backflow preventers.  If there were to be a drop in pressure when they are taking the water there could be a backflow from their tank that makes its way into our water supply.  This could happen as we heard one of the culprits was a landscaping company that could have had chemicals in the tank they were filling.

“When we locked the hydrants we issued keys to any fire department that wanted them.  It’s a proven fact it only takes seconds to unlock the hydrants and as long as the keys were left on the truck there should be no issue in unlocking them quickly in the event the hydrant is needed.”

Williams said Lehrbass had stated in his letter that locking hydrants could affect the insurance rating for property owners in the corridor.

“I had an auditor in my office last week completing the ISO Fire Rating for Scottville and I asked him directly about this,” Williams said. “He said as long as the fire departments have keys there is absolutely no impact on our fire rating.  He also agreed there is a bigger concern with illegal hook-ups and the possibility of causing contamination to our system in the event of a loss of pressure.

“I know when we made this decision back in 2008 we consulted many people and had lengthy discussions about this and decided it was in everyone’s best interest to lock specific hydrants.  As the fire authority has asked us to reconsider this I’m bringing it back to you for review.”

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