Fire Hydrant Problems in One East Tennessee Community.

By: Stephen McLamb
By: Stephen McLamb

Knoxville (WVLT) --There is concern tonight in one East Tennessee Community, that some fire hydrants may not have enough pressure to help firefighters put out a blaze.

We talked with residents tonight on the very serious problem in Lenoir City, and the community's solution.

Many of the hydrants are located in the downtown and residential historic district.

A lot of the homes in those two parts of town are constructed of old wood, which has residents concerned if there should be a fire.

Lenoir City's Historic district has some of the town's most beautiful homes, many built during the turn of the 20th century, but city officials are learning that the area may be the least protected against fire.

"Would you have ever thought something was wrong with it?," asked Garry McNabb, a concerned resident. "You wouldn't think a thing is wrong with it, looks like it would work to me."

But fire officials say they have problems with a third of the city's hydrants, most in the downtown and historic district.

"They tested last year about 270 hydrants and out of those 270 hydrants they had 87 that weren't up to par," said Deputy Chief Tony Brock from the Lenoir City Fire Department.

Brock says water lines leading to the hydrants have become corroded over the last fifty years.

So much so that some are flowing at just 71 gallons per hour, far below what they're looking for.

"Well, we don't want anything below 500 gallons," Brock said.

The low flow has some residents in the wood filled historic district concerned.

"If they had a fire could they put it out?," said McNabb. "I mean, would the flow be enough to go up to the second story of my house?"

"Well, it would be very sad because you really could not replace that house with comparable materials, it's really irreplaceable," said Doug Williams who has owned his home for 70 years.

City officials are working on the problem.

They have talked to a consulting firm which is working on a $4.5 million project to replace the main water lines to the area with much larger ones.

"It's all in a loop system and that's going to better supply," Brock said. "It's going to create and probably take care of 70 percent of the problem."

Funding is the problem now as Brock says the city is now looking at how to pay for the project.

There's still a second and third phase that needs to be looked at, but officials say they are much less critical and can be done over 15 years.

As for Knoxville, KUB says they are doing whatever they can to keep ever hydrant in Knoxville working.

Officials for the utility say they have about 8,000 hydrants in their system which get constant attention.

Every three years, the hydrants get a good cleaning, greasing, painting and most of all, a good flushing.

"Many of the pipes are metallic so corrosion can be an issue," said KUB Spokesman Ted Tyree. "In our experience, one of the best remedies for that is a good flushing program, just making sure that you keep the water turned over by flushing the pipes and hydrants periodically."

Tyree says they also use a good anti-corrosion chemical to help keep the pipes lasting a long time.

If you would like to know if your closest hydrant has been tested recently, you can call KUB to find out.


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