By NATHAN GREGORY
Over the next three to four months, Starkville Fire Department and the city’s public works department will be flushing fire hydrants and flow testing water mains throughout town to keep the city’s water supply clean and improve water flow in order to better contain fires.
SFD Chief Rodger Mann said the improved flow will ensure firefighters have the water pressure necessary to mitigate possible fire damage to structures. He said hydrants around town have colors on the tops of them to indicate how effectively each main produces water to use on potential fires in the area where it’s located.
Mann said hydrants with orange or red tops mean the hydrant pushes an inadequate amount of gallons of water per minute to douse fires quickly and effectively, while hydrants with green and blue tops indicate pressure flows highly enough to contain fires in a residential or commercial area.
“You’ll see a lot of hydrants around town now that have blue tops on them. Blue tops mean it flows a very high volume of water. The more blue top hydrants you see around, the better off we are,” he said. “Several years back before we started this process, we used to have a lot of red- and orange-top hydrants in Starkville. Now I don’t know there is a red or orange left. That means our flows have come up and our pressure is there.”
Mann said having each hydrant at a certain level of capability is also one of the key factors in the Mississippi State Rating Bureau deciding whether to lower SFD’s overall rating from 5 to 4. Lowering the rating would lower insurance rates for residents and businesses in town, Mann said.
“(Starkville Public Works Director) Doug Devlin has been working for several years now on upgrading our water mains — installing new hydrants, taking a smaller hydrant out and putting a bigger hydrant in. He’s done a phenomenal job on that and it’s going to help us immensely when (MSRB) comes in. He’s worked on connecting some mains; (The Starkville Board of Aldermen) came in and spent the money to put a loop around the city,” he said. “That helped the residents with a lot of their pressure problems. The water department (is now) able to isolate a problem and as few residents be without service as possible, partly because that loop is able to feed from both directions. When that occurred, that also helped the rating by giving us a higher rating (due to our) higher water supply.”
Devlin said SPW is currently flushing hydrants in the northeast quadrant of Starkville.
“The reason we’re (flushing hydrants) in the water department is mainly to flush sediment out of the lines. This will help loosen up a lot of that loose iron oxide or rust on the side of the cast iron pipes,” Devlin said. “It’s also good every now and then to flush the system over time to remove disinfection byproducts as well. We want to get a good velocity of water to break rust loose from the sides of pipes and minimize the number of unexpected events with brown water. The other thing from our point of view is by operating all these valves, it keeps them exercised because if they’re left alone for a few years they tend to freeze up.”
Mann said the reason for both departments performing upgrades simultaneously is to make sure each area only experiences minimal problems with their water sources for short amounts of time.
“What we’ve done here with the city departments working hand in hand is we doubled up with the water department to try to inconvenience our residents as little as possible. While the water department is doing some work they need to be doing, we’re doing some work we need to do at the same time. That way, once we leave an area, fire and water should be through in those areas,” Mann said. “In the process of we both are doing, if we have a valve that is not fully open we’ll discover that ... and we can then get that valve open all the way up, which increases water flow. If we realize the water flow is lower than we feel like it should be, we can pass that on to the water department and they can figure out quickly that we have a valve shut down in one area. With the cross-connecting they’ve done over the past several years it should open the flow back up.”