Preston Fire Company Struggling With Low Hydrant Pressure In Tow - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Preston Fire Company Struggling With Low Hydrant Pressure In Town

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Some hydrants in Preston only put out 500 gallons per minute of water.  The fire company is looking for 1000 gallons per minute.  (Photo:WBOC) Some hydrants in Preston only put out 500 gallons per minute of water. The fire company is looking for 1000 gallons per minute. (Photo:WBOC)

PRESTON, Md.- Putting out a fire requires a lot of water pressure and flow through those hydrants.  But in one Caroline County town, the water system is having trouble keeping up with the times, and the demands of newer fire trucks.

The Preston Fire Company is looking for a flow of about 1000 to 1200 gallons per minute from the hydrants in town to put out fires more effectively.  The problem is, in some areas they are only seeing half that.

This year, the water system in Preston turns 90 years old.  For pipes that old, they are holding up remarkably well says Town Commissioner Douglas Vanderveer

"The pipes that we have had to work on over the years, we have not seen any significant buildup inside, and there are no restrictions inside that we can find," said Vanderveer.

It turns out the system itself is the restriction.

"Low flow in our hydrants has been an ongoing problem in the town of Preston for the last ten years that I have worked here.  The only way to really upgrade it would be to have larger diameter water mains and a larger water tower," said Dale Whitley, superintendent of water and sewer for Preston.

The tower uses gravity, and the weight of the water in the tank to generate the pressure through the system.  A new tower would need to be roughly four times larger, and all water mains through town would have to be replaced.  A big proposition for a small town of 330 homes.

"It would probably be more like 10 years down the line before we could even begin to look at a new water tower and new pipes," said Vanderveer.

Although firetrucks will not operate at their optimum level, their work can still be done.

"They really know what they are doing.  They know how to get water to a fire if need be.  They know how to truck it in or lay pipe to draw it in to the fire that's in progress," said Whitley.

Although it would admittedly be easier with fully flowing hydrants.

Preston leaders say they are ultimately victims of being a small town.  They are already undertaking a $5 million sewer improvement project.  A large scale water system overhaul is a daunting task.

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