Guest Editorial: What’s the deal with fire hydrant flushing?

June 8, 2018
By Marcy Shortuse

Why does GIWA flush fire hydrants?  We only flush hydrants to maintain the highest quality of drinking water for our members.  When water remains in pipes too long, it may begin to pick up off-tastes, exhibit odors or discoloration, or most importantly, result in a gradual breakdown or loss of our disinfecting agent.
GIWA must maintain minimum disinfectant levels at the end of our water distribution system for the control of microbes.  Those levels are checked daily, and if the disinfectant level is nearing minimum requirements, we flush to maintain the water’s safety for consumption.  We do want to assure our membership that we only flush when, and at volumes necessary to maintain water quality.
This is a common practice for utilities.  If you leave the Island on Placida Road toward Englewood, or Gasparilla Road toward Port Charlotte, at times you will see other local utilities flushing to maintain their water quality as well.
Why don’t we capture or reuse the water?  We have considered ideas in the past, including transporting the water with tanker trucks from the hydrant for use in another location such as irrigation of a community area; however, the volume of water we are required to flush at times is simply too much for this to be practical.   GIWA is open to consideration of any ideas our members may have for use of the flushed water.
GIWA recorded 10 inches of rain on the Island during the last half of May.  Our water flows dropped significantly, but even with the low flows, we only needed to flush one day to maintain an acceptable disinfectant level.  This was a result of the chlorine purge done in April and May.  A chlorine purge is a conversion to free chlorine (which is a stronger disinfectant) from chloramines (which is a longer-lasting disinfectant).  Periodically converting to free chlorine is an effective method for scouring water distribution systems and is recommended by the Department of Environmental Protection for water utilities using chloramines as their primary disinfectant.
With the amount of rain on the Island in May, we expected water usage for members that have irrigation systems to be much lower.  After reading meters at the end of May, GIWA did notice that water usage for many accounts was either essentially unchanged and some cases even higher than April when we had less than 1.5” of rain.  If you have an outside irrigation system, and your most recent water bill is not lower than last month’s bill, now would be a good time to discuss with your landscaper the installation of an automatic rain shut off device for your irrigation system or check to see if an existing device is malfunctioning.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Bonnie Pringle, Utility Director, at (941) 809-7091.