Public works department recommends installing 33 new fire hydrants to fill gap in fire coverage

City of Prince Albert -- Herald file photo.

The City of Prince Albert’s Public Works Department has recommended installing 33 new fire hydrants around the City to fill gaps in fire coverage.

Prince Albert currently has 1,030 fire hydrants, but according to Public Works Director Wes Hicks, some areas of the city still have below standard fire hydrant coverage.

Hicks made the recommendations in a Utility Expenditure Review included in Monday’s council meeting agenda package. The estimated cost for those hydrants is at least $257,400.

Over the past 16 years, the City has replaced 156 “John East” brand fire hydrants, which were made in Saskatoon from 1910 to 1965. The company has been out of business for 39 years, making it impossible to find replacement parts. The City purchased Mueller Canada Hydrants instead, and began installing them in 2004.

The City currently has six different brands of hydrants that are inefficient to maintain or repair. Hicks wrote that efforts to replace those hydrants would continue in 2021. They aim to replace 15 of the oldest hydrants which are causing maintenance problems, or have been damaged by vehicles.

The cost of replacing one hydrant varies from $10,000 to $15,000 depending on how long it’s been in use.

The fire hydrant gap was one of several items mentioned in a Water Hydraulic System Analysis Study conducted in 2015. The study also showed that 167 of the City’s fire hydrants were not able to meet their fire flow targets due to a build-up or rust in the old cast iron pipes.

Prince Albert hired a unidirectional flushing specialist in 2016, with the goal of removing that build-up. Last year was the City’s fifth year of flushing. The City alternates between flushing pipes above the hill (Zone 2) and below the hill (Zone 1).

Hicks wrote in the Utility Expenditure Report that the City “will never be able to remove 110 years of build-up, but we will be able to stop further build-up.”

Flushing costs an estimated $52,500 for Zone 1 and $73,500 for Zone 2.

Hicks’ report also shows that the number of Water Main breaks are on the decline over the last several years. Prince Albert experienced an all-time high of 70 water breaks in 2014, when the City spent only $450,000 on water main replacement, and nearly $900,000 on repairs.

Over the last eight years, Hicks wrote that council had tripled the water main replacement budget, which had significantly reduced the need for repairs. City crews had responded to only 22 water main breaks in 2020, as of Dec. 8. Each break costs an average of $15,000. The City still has 60 km of cast iron pipe to replace, at an estimated cost of around $1-million per KM.

The 2015 Water Hydraulic System Analysis Study identified 16 recommended system upgrades, at a cost of around $5.2-million. Four of those recommendations have since been completed, with work on another currently underway.

There are roughly $4.3-million worth of recommendations left to complete.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed flushing costs as “$52,500 for Zone 1 and 473,500 for Zone 1.” The sentence should have read $52,500 for Zone 1 and $73,500 for Zone 2.” It also listed the cost of cast iron pipe replacements as “around $1-million.” The sentence should have read “$1-million per KM.” The Daily Herald apologizes for the mistake.