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The City of Minot has conducted yearly inspections and testing of hydrants for years. The work is still being done, but by different crews.
In previous years, the Fire Department performed the work. Beginning in 2021, the City’s Water and Sewer Department created a designated crew to inspect and test not only hydrants, but gate valves in the water system, too.
There are approximately 2,300 public hydrants in the City of Minot; last year, the crews inspected half of them. The second half will be done this year.
“We feel like we’re prepared to ensure the hydrants are in proper working order when the Fire Department needs them,” Water and Sewer Department Supt. John Reynolds said. “We know how they mechanically operate, and we know when something is wrong. It went very well last year, and the plan is to get to the second half of the public hydrants in 2022.”
This year, the department instituted a gate valve maintenance program, too. There are approximately 7,500 gate valves in the city, which are used to turn water mains off and on. A typical intersection includes one or two gate valves.
“In the past we haven’t always been as proactive as we are now with gate valves,” Reynolds said. “When we get called out on a water break and turn a gate valve that has not been exercised in years and it starts to leak or does not close properly, now we have more repairs to make. That also impacts more blocks and more residents in order to get the water shut down to make repairs.”
To perform the work more efficiently, the department purchased equipment that does a variety of duties. The trailer, which Reynolds said he expects to arrive early this summer, includes a small vacuum device that will be used to clean sand and dirt from gate valve risers. It also includes a robotic arm to help exercise gate valves.
“We’ll attach the arm to the gate valve, and put in our preferred settings as to how much torque it will apply to the gate valve. Then the machine does the work,” Reynolds said. “If it encounters a spot that is rusty and it hits the threshold of torque we’ve set, it will stop and ask what we want it to do.”
Reynolds said this machine will help safely exercise some gate valves that haven’t been worked for years.
“We know we’re going to create some issues with old gate valves, but we also know we’re going to find and fix issues now before they become a problem during an emergency,” he added.
The goal over the next few years is to test and repair gate valves and hydrants before they become a problem.
“We want to know that when we get called to a water break or when the Fire Department shows up in an emergency that the gate valves and hydrants all work,” Reynolds said. “It’s definitely a public safety issue, and by being proactive, we can eliminate some of the unknowns regarding hydrants and gate valves.”
“I think we’ve really stepped up our focus on preventative maintenance,” Reynolds added. “We’ve come a long way in a year, and we know that being proactive in performing maintenance will pay dividends in the future.”