Northeast Town fire hydrants now winterized

An Ontario Clean Water Agency employee works on defrosting a fire hydrant in Little Current earlier this month.

LITTLE CURRENT—Residents of Little Current were upset to see that fire hydrants in the town hadn’t been properly winterized when Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) employees were busy trying to rectify the problem over the Christmas holidays.

An Expositor letter to the editor from former fire chief Jim Bousquet expressed his “shock” that the fire hydrant maintenance was being performed on one of the coldest days of the year. He also blamed council and administration for not ensuring the hydrants’ proper maintenance and for hiring “expensive contractors” to fix the mistake.

The Northeast Town council requested that an OCWA representative (OCWA is in charge of the winterization and maintenance of the hydrants) attend the January 18 council meeting to explain what had occurred.

“This year we ran into a scheduling problem and we didn’t get to Little Current until later than usual and the hydrants had froze,” explained OCWA representative Keith Stringer at last week’s community services and public works committee meeting. “Our guys came and thawed them out using steamers.”

Councillor Michael Erskine asked how long it took to steam out each of the fire hydrants. Mr. Stringer responded that it normally takes 10 minutes, but due to the cold weather it took them between 30 and 40 minutes per hydrant.

Councillor Dawn Orr asked if the same problem had occurred in Sheguiandah. Mr. Stringer explained that it had not and that the Sheguiandah hydrants had been ‘pumped out.’

Mr. Stringer said that each spring the hydrants are flushed and in the late fall they are usually “pumped out and drained.”

Councillor Erskine also asked about the use of anti-freeze as part of the winterization. Mr. Stringer explained that the hydrants are pumped out and drained and anti-freeze is not used as it would pose a risk of getting into the town’s water system.

To ensure this issue doesn’t occur again, Mr. Stringer said that OCWA will be pumping out the hydrants after they are flushed in the spring. They will also be double checked in the fall to ensure that they are drained and ready for winter.

He also assured council that the cost of steaming the hydrants was not charged to the town and that in the case of one damaged hydrant (a cracked barrel), the full cost of the repairs was also covered by OCWA.