ANC scolds WASA over broken hydrants

February 5, 2009

Fifty-nine of Georgetown’s 200 fire hydrants need maintenance, according to Louis Jarvis, the Water Services Director for the District of Columbia Water and Sewage Authority, who was called to testify before the Advisory Neighborhood Commission at their meeting on Monday.

The problem was brought to the attention of ANC Commissioner Ed Solomon last week when he witnessed a fire in a dumpster near the Addison School on P Street. According to Solomon, there was a fire hydrant nearby that had a “Needs Maintenance” sign on it—which is intended to signal the hydrant is functional but needs repair—that was unusable, forcing fire fighters to use a pumper truck.

WASA Public Affairs Officer Pamela Mooring said WASA frequently partners with D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services to inspect all hydrants, and prioritizes hydrant repairs “so that an adequate number of operable hydrants are available at all times.”

ANC Commissioners expressed anger over the high number of hydrants in disrepair, especially in light of the 2007 fire that destroyed the Georgetown Public Library, during which two nearby fire hydrants that were marked “Needs Maintenance” failed to work, allowing the fire damage to increase significantly.

“In light of WASA’s track record … we’d like WASA to give us a much faster timetable [for repairs],” ANC Chair Ron Lewis said at the meeting.

Jarvis informed the ANC that  WASA fixes hydrants that are determined to be “Out of Service” within 24 hours. If there are multiple hydrants marked “Out of Service” on the same street, he said, a crew would be on scene in two hours or less.

Jarvis didn’t have a concrete figure for how quickly repair crews would fix hydrants marked “Needs Maintenance,” but estimated it would be approximately 60 days. The ANC demanded that he return to the March ANC meeting with specifics of when hydrants that need maintenance will be fixed.

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