City of Newberry residents may soon see utility department employees in their area to flush fire hydrants, Utility Director Tim Baker said.

“South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) requires water systems to have a hydrant flushing program,” Baker said.

Every three years, Baker said the city is required to have a high velocity unidirectional flush of their hydrants throughout their water system. This differs from the occasional hydrant flushing that is needed in the system in the event of a water quality issue.

Hydrants need to be flushed to maintain proper water quality, Baker said as well as to ensure proper fire protection for residents.

“When we flush hydrants, we are taking static and residual water pressures at each hydrant,” he said.

The city follows the American Water Works Association’s method of hydrant flushing, meaning residents will see water flowing from two separate hydrants in the same area at the same time.

Unidirectional flushing allows the city to clean any residual from the lines, but also is a form of maintenance on the hydrants, said Newberry Fire Chief Keith Minick.

“Because the city is doing what is required of them from DHEC, it also helps with the fire department’s ISO rating,” Minick said.

The Insurance Services Office creates ratings for fire departments which calculate how well-equipped they are to put out fires within their community. This ISO rating is provided to homeowners insurance companies.

The water pressures taken by the utilities department are provided to the fire department to help them calculate how many gallons per minute are in a specific area for fire hydrants.

“It lets us know what we can expect to get from that water line in that area in case of a fire,” Minick said.

Baker said the testing and flushing of fire hydrants is also important from the standpoint of economic development as many developers as well as offices such as the Newberry County Economic Development Office often inquire as to the water pressure in certain areas of town.

At this time, Baker said approximately 25 percent of the hydrants on the city’s water system have been flushed. While utility workers try to be as non-disruptive to residents and vehicle traffic as possible, Baker said their department asks drivers to lower their speed and be cautious when driving through an area where hydrants are being tested.

“We ask that people be cautious not only for their own safety, but for the safety of our utility workers as well,” he said.

From the standpoint of the fire service, Minick said each hydrant is color-coded to dictate the gallons per minute they can expect from the water line for the hydrant in a given area, whether that color be blue, green, orange or red. Because of this color-coding system, he said it is imperative that people not paint, deface, or vandalize fire hydrants.

Minick also asks residents to be cautious when putting debris out by the road that blocks fire hydrants as well as planting vegetation around hydrants.

“Be careful not to block the view or access of the fire department to these hydrants,” he said. “We typically need a three-foot clearance around the hydrant to get a hose hooked and valve turned on.”

City Manager Matt DeWitt said this was just another example of city departments pulling together for the betterment of the city as a whole.

“I am proud of the work our team does to make Newberry a great place to live, work and play,” he said.

Baker said the city will make every effort to notify the public what areas they will be working in through their social media outlets of Facebook (City of Newberry Public Utilities) and on Twitter @PublicUtilities. For questions, please contact the City of Newberry Utilities Department at 803-321-1018.