MOFD Hydrant Reconditioning Program
© 2001 Capt. Willis Lamm, Water Supply Officer, Moraga-Orinda (CA) Fire District

Current NFPA specifications state that every fire hydrant shall be equipped with at least one large diameter pumper outlet. Out of the district's 1407 fire hydrants, 351 were installed years ago when lower standards were in effect.

Aside from being less efficient than current models, the Insurance Services Office (the organization that rates communities for purposes of setting fire insurance rates) assigns deficiency points for these obsolete hydrants. How much this affects our overall rating is based on the percentage that obsolete hydrants make up of the total hydrants in the district.

Typical obsolete hydrants

New replacement hydrants cost about $ 850.00 installed. As a result the total cost to replace these hydrants with new ones would be nearly $ 300,000.00. This substantial price tag would make upgrading all of these old hydrants impractical. As a result, the District developed an alternative plan.

Solving the Problem

The Fire District entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) to implement a trial program to recondition used hydrants that had been removed from service and were in storage at the EBMUD Oakport Service Center. While these hydrants were older, they complied with current NFPA standards. Fire District forces would recondition these hydrants according to agreed upon specifications after which EBMUD would use the reconditioned hydrants to replace obsolete bodies for a flat labor fee of $ 100.00 per changeout.

Basic Program Specifications:

  • The District acquires used hydrants of mutually agreed upon design that are still structurally sound.

  • Hydrants are dismantled and dipped in hot caustic soda for 48 hours to remove paint and scale.

  • Hydrants are rinsed to neutral pH (7.0), and residual paint and scale are removed using an electric wire brush.

  • Valves are checked for trueness and new valve seals are installed.

  • New packings are installed in models that utilize rope packings.

  • Valves are lubricated using food grade grease.

  • Two coats of primer and two coats of finish paint are applied.

  • Hydrants are tested under pressure for leaks and to ensure proper operation.

  • Hydrants are color coded and tagged to identify which obsolete hydrant each is replacing, then they are delivered to the East Area Service Center for installation.

Testing reconditioned hydrants.
The engine pumps into a test stand.
Final painting and prep for delivery.
A "recon" installed in Moraga.

Priorities for installation are:

  1. Hydrants that have mechanical problems (are hard to operate or are constant "leakers.")

  2. Hydrants in commercial areas, near schools, apartments and other multiple occupancies and higher hazards.

  3. Lower pressure hydrants in high fire danger areas (where the smaller outlet sizes have significant impact.)

  4. Lower pressure hydrants in ordinary residential areas.

  5. Higher pressure hydrants in high fire danger areas.

The District will strive to replace 30 hydrants per fiscal year. Considering that a few additional hydrants will be replaced by EBMUD in conjunction with regular maintenance duties, we should have all obsolete hydrants replaced in ten years.

In FY 1999/00 the crew reconditioned 23 hydrants. (The program started mid-year.) Halfway through FY 2000/01 the crew reconditioned 40 hydrants. The average cost, installed, has been about $ 180.00 per hydrant.

The Hydrant Reconditioning Program also provides hydrants for the District's Rural Water Supply Program.

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