Dunstable’s ‘Out Of Service’ hydrants might become active

Fire suppression dependent on lone tanker truck

An “Out Of Service” fire hydrant in Dunstable

DUNSTABLE – Driving through town, one might notice a few fire hydrants with a yellow ring around it that reads “Out Of Service.”

It’ll soon be determined which ones stay and which ones go.

Fire Chief Brian Rich said this week that the hydrants have “technically” never been in service due to the town not having a sufficient water supply to support their use.

There are more than 20 inoperable fire hydrants, scattered across the community.

For now, Dunstable relies on a tanker truck holding 3,000 gallons of water to use in fire emergencies, with Rich adding that the Fire Department can request additional tankers through mutual aid agreements with neighboring communities

Rich noted how most town residents are aware of the hydrants being unavailable for use in an emergency. He added that the “Out Of Service” rings are meant to alert trucks from other local fire departments in case they need access to another water source during emergencies.

Town Administrator Brian Palaia said last week that the hydrants will likely be addressed after the completion of a town-wide water distribution improvement plan. Palaia said that the plans for the town system have been in flux for some time and were finally approved by the public at the annual Town Meeting in May.

“The town has one of the smallest water systems in Massachusetts,” Palaia said. “We’ve been struggling for years to make essential improvements to the system.”

The improvements include installing about 1,800 linear feet of water main pipe, going from four-inch asbestos cement main pipe to 12-inch pipe ductile iron pipe. The town also plans to construct a 75,000-gallon water tank for storage on a property located on Pleasant Street. Mechanical upgrades for the town’s water well house on Main Street are also planned. Palaia said the entire project costs about $2.6 million.

Though Palaia said fixing or replacing the town’s fire hydrants is not part of the approved infrastructure project, he did say the town plans to perform an inventory of which hydrants in town could still work after the water system is improved. Palaia said its dependent on whether or not the town has the necessary water pressure to support having hydrants.

“We only have hydrants in a few sections of town, so we’d rely on the tanker truck for now,” Palaia said.

The replacement of the water main piping is expected to be replaced by November, while the well house improvements are set to be finished by next April.

Palaia said the contract for the construction of the solo water tank has not yet been approved by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, but should take about a year to complete.