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Water Main Flushing Explained

Wednesday, May 22, 2024
City of Altoona staff

What are the benefits of hydrant flushing? You may have noticed the City of Altoona Public Works crews flushing fire hydrants and releasing large amounts of water into the streets. It is a controlled procedure that is vital to the general maintenance of the City's water distribution system. There are several benefits to the hydrant flushing process:

  • Allows the Altoona Water Utility to deliver the highest quality water possible
  • Removes mineral and sediment build up from the water mains
  • Ensures that fire hydrants are functioning properly for fire protection
  • Evaluates the available water flow to the hydrant
  • Allows operators to identify broken or inoperable valves and hydrants

What is the water main (hydrant) flushing program? To improve water quality and minimize discoloration, City of Altoona water mains are comprehensively flushed. The procedure is performed in warm-weather months toward the end of spring and into early summer and involves the systematic opening and closing of hydrants, one section of main at a time, to force the water through the pipes at high velocity, removing accumulated mineral sediment until the water is clear. The operation can take from a few minutes to over an hour.

How will flushing affect water service? When flushing crews are working close to your residence or business, you may experience periods of very low pressure or even a nearly complete stoppage of service. We attempt to notify customers in advance if flushing is expected to result in a complete water outage, but such outages are very rare.

Flushing operations may also lead to discolored water, which can be drawn into homes and businesses if the water is being used during or immediately following the flushing. Such events should affect customers for a few hours at most. The discoloration is caused by iron (red color), or manganese (black color) particles being dislodged from the water main which can stain porcelain and laundry. If discoloration occurs, open the cold tap nearest the water meter- usually a basement sink-to full flow until the water runs clear. In some situations this may take 5 to 10 minutes. It is also advised that you make sure your water is clear before doing laundry or other projects for which discolored water could cause problems.

When will a hydrant near me be flushed? During the flushing season (warm-weather months), most crews work between 6:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. A precise schedule of flushing operations is difficult to determine more than a day or two in advance. If you would like more information or would like to be notified before work will be done in your area, please call 715-839-2948 to speak with someone in Public Works.