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PSC still awaits 70 late replies to fire hydrant survey sent to water utilities in June

MORGANTOWN — Cities and towns across the state continue to trickle in their responses to the state Public Service Commission’s fire hydrant safety survey — well after the original July 28 deadline and following a Sept. 1 PSC letter to 117 delinquent utilities.

The Sept. 1 letter carried a threat: “If you do not respond to the [original June 30] order within 10 days, the commission will consider issuing a Show Cause proceeding for each utility that has not responded.”

A Show Cause proceeding would require the utility to justify its failure to respond.

By Friday, PSC chair Charlotte Lane said in a statement, the number of delinquents had dropped to about 70.

“We are calling each of them to try to get the information before we do anything else,” she said. “Our goal is to try to get the information, not punish them.”

PSC sent out the fire hydrant survey to all water utilities on June 30. Rural hydrants are required to have a 500 gallons-per-minute flow, while the statewide minimum is 250 gpm. They must be able to function for two hours — needing 60,000 gallons of storage in the system.

The American Water Works Association sets the accepted consensus standard that hydrants must be inspected annually, and flow tested every three or five years.

PSC has said the survey will allow it to develop a more extensive database on maintenance and testing of the tens of thousands of hydrants across the state, how many are in compliance and what the PSC or the Legislature needs to do to encourage compliance. It’s never before required any utility to provide anything other than the number of hydrants.

The PSC told legislators in August that hydrants are designed to last 100 years, and there are a few that old, but the majority — according to the responses filed so far — are less than 50 years old and parts are still available.

Costs for replacing hydrants can be a deterrent for small utilities, the PSC said. New hydrants on new water lines cost about $5,000 each. New hydrants on existing lines, as part of a bigger project, cost $10,000 each, and one utility reported replacing 10 at $13,000 apiece.

Locally, the most-recent survey submissions came from the town of Worthington and the city of Mannington, both in Marion County.

Worthington sent its response in on Sept. 13 and noted it is in the midst of a water project upgrade, which would consist of some new hydrants.

Worthington has 19 utility-owned hydrants, its response said, with the oldest being 19 years old. It inspects, on average, five hydrants per year. Its most-recent flow testing was done in 2018.

Mannington sent in its reply on Sept. 14. It has 90 utility-owned hydrants, with two older than 50 that need to be replaced. It inspects all of them annually. The Mannington Fire Department does the flow testing.


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