The City of Alliance has around twelve hundred fire hydrants. The flushing of the hydrants actually has two functions. By flushing the hydrant, a high velocity of water is forced through the water main, cleaning it out and sort of scouring the line. A second purpose for flushing is the annual preventive maintenance for the hydrant itself. This preventive maintenance helps both the Fire Department and the Water Distribution Department by keeping the hydrants maintained on a consistent basis.
The Water Distribution Department replaces fire hydrants at a rate of about eighteen a year. The hydrants get hit by cars or damaged in a variety of ways. The hydrants are replaced with a standard brand which has been used all over town for about twenty-five years. Sticking to the same brand means all the parts are interchangeable which makes stocking parts and making repairs much easier.
The fire hydrants are flushed in a pattern, starting from the north and going south. That's the same way the Water Treatment Plant flows. The hydrants are flushed systematically with two person crews, working twenty four hours a day. There are three crews on the afternoon and midnight shift, and two crews on the day shift. Each crew flushes from two to six hydrants at a time. There can be up to twenty-four hydrants flushing at any given time.
A similar pattern is used every year. That pattern might change slightly if the plant is having trouble meeting capacity or if there is a break somewhere. The large mains are flushed first, then the smaller mains that feed off the large ones. The pattern may also be altered somewhat if the flush would cause low pressure at a peak usage time. Flushing also helps to identify an area where there may be a closed valve in the system.
The Water Distribution Department recommends not doing laundry while your area is being flushed. Why? Because taking deposits out of the main by flushing may discolor your water and therefore your clothes. The chemical deposits in the lines are most likely manganese, which will certainly discolor your whites. However, the water is still safe to drink if you wish to do so.
The systematic hydrant flushing has improved the water distribution system greatly. It has also improved the condition and annual maintenance of the fire hydrants. At any given time during the annual flushing, you may see up to thirty city employees busy in parts of the city. The Street Department also helps out with the flushing.
If you have questions about when the flushing will take place in your area, watch the local newspaper. If you need more specific information, call the Water Distribution Department at 330-823-5216.