Fire hydrants being colour-coded as aging water systems in Ontario now pose serious fire safety risks

    TORONTO, Aug. 30 /CNW/ - According to fire chiefs and watermain engineers
across Ontario, aging underground water pipes could hamper firefighting
efforts and put lives at risk.
    There is often reduced water flow in old, corroded and leaking pipes, and
this compromises the effectiveness of high-rise sprinkler systems and
firefighting equipment. Some municipalities in Ontario - including Ottawa,
Toronto, Kingston and Hamilton - are now colour-coding their fire hydrants to
indicate low water flow areas.
    "Aging pipes pose a serious risk. In extreme situations, they could
result in sprinkler systems failing or the fire department being unable to put
its equipment to the most effective use," said Tim Beckett, Vice President of
the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and Fire Chief of Kitchener.
    "Colour-coding hydrants is not a solution. All it does is warn the fire
department that sufficient water flow may not be available."
    Municipalities that practice the colour-coding system follow the U.S.
National Fire Protection Association's standards. The bonnet and nozzle caps
of hydrants are painted a specific colour to indicate water flow as follows:

    Blue         - flow greater than 95 litres/second
    Green        - flow of 63 to 95 L/s
    Orange       - flow of 31 to 63 L/s
    Red          - flow less than 31 L/s

    Frank Zechner, Executive Director of the Ontario Sewer and Watermain
Construction Association, noted that the older piping systems in the province
leak an average of 20 to 40 percent of their water. "That results in a
significant lowering of their flow. We've been warning municipalities about
the situation, telling them that just because the problem originates
underground doesn't make it any less dangerous."
    In Toronto, for example, half of the water network is at least 50 years
old, with some of it more than 100 years old. In some municipalities, such as
Ottawa, the systems date back to the1870s.
    "The solution is clear. More investment is needed to upgrade and replace
the older watermain systems. We know this is a large capital cost, but we
think it's important for a lot of reasons - maintaining the quality and safety
of our drinking water, getting rid of lead pipes, but also ensuring the
protection of the public when fires occur," Zechner added.
    The Ontario government's own report, titled Watertight, concluded:
"Unless the rate of capital investment increases sharply from the level of the
recent past, Ontario will face a gap of roughly $18 billion between what
systems need and what they receive in funding over the next 15 years."

    The Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association has been
representing industry construction contractors across the province for more
than 35 years, and currently serves over 700 member companies. It is a
champion of environmental protection and best practices in safety and water
system management.

    The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs represents the Chief Fire Officers
from the 478 Fire Departments across the Province of Ontario. These Chief
Officers are ultimately responsible, by statute, to their municipal Councils
for the management and delivery of fire, rescue, and emergency response in
their municipalities.

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Dena Fehir, PR POST, (416)
777-0368; OSWCA: Frank Zechner, Executive Director, (416) 319-2004 (cell);
OAFC: Fire Chief Tim Beckett, Vice President, (519) 741-2495; Local OSWCA
Contacts: Kingston: Doug Haight, President, (613) 536-9971; Hamilton: Dave
Pagnan, Secretary-Treasurer, (905) 525-5153; Ottawa: Kevin Easey, Ottawa Rep,
(613) 225-1333

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