MOUNT VERNON — While conducting a routine flush of the fire hydrants on Wedgewood Drive, the Mount Vernon Fire Department discovered an inadequate flow from one of the hydrants and notified the water department of the inadequate pressure.
“It is important to have proper pressure in the hydrants,” Mount Vernon Fire Department Chief Shawn Christy said. “What we want is proper gallons per minute. It is critical for us to be able to have a water grid system that allows us to get more water than we would need to put out the types of fires we would have in a certain area.
“We flush all the hydrants on an annual basis. We physically open and check every single hydrant in our entire grid. Not only are we physically checking them to make sure they have water, we actually do flow tests on 25 percent of our hydrants each year over a four-year period. We take that data and put it into spreadsheets, and now when we are dispatched to a fire, not only do I know where every single hydrant is, but I know the flow rate for each hydrant.”
Robert Stribling, foreman in the Mount Vernon water maintenance department, said the water department excavated an area at a waterline access point, opened all the valves and ran a remote camera into the 6-inch pipe to determine the problem. A large rock, just about the size of the pipe, was found to be clogging the pipe about 265 feet from the access point.
On Thursday afternoon, with the water shut off to some customers on Greenbrier and all homes on Wedgewood and Culbertson drives, a declogging effort was under way. The MVFD, assisted by a unit from the College-Monroe Fire Department, forced 3,000 gallons of water into a hydrant in an attempt to flush the rock out.
Although a number of smaller stones and pebbles surfaced in the access area, the larger stone did not appear after the first attempt. The fire trucks went to refill their tanks for another try.
At that time, Stribling said, “We will run the camera through again to see if the rock has moved. If the next flushing doesn’t work, we will have to excavate where the block is located and cut into the pipe to remove the rock.”
The second attempt to back flush the pipe was also unsuccessful, although the rock did move down the pipe, Stribling said late Thursday afternoon. The crew then began the excavation to locate and cut into the section of water pipe to reach and remove the rock, which was successfully completed Thursday evening.
Except for the two homes closest to the blockage, water service had been restored to residences on Greenbrier, Culbertson and Wedgewood by Thursday afternoon. A boil advisory is in effect for those homes until further notice, Stribling said.
Christy said the system worked perfectly.
“I have to commend the city water department for their work in identifying and fixing the problem. We found a problem when we flushed the hydrants. Together with the water department, we were able to troubleshoot problems, address them and fix them without unfortunately having a 4,000-square-foot home on the ground,” he said.