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How to break a hydrant for beginners

The hydrant is the bit that, in suburban settings, is usually underground, like this:


Using a hydrant bar to open the hydrant


The hydrant revealed

The round bit in the middle of the hydrant is a spring valve.

‘Shipping the standpipe’ is the term for fitting the standpipe into the hydrant.

To ship the standpipe, you fit the lugs at the bottom of the standpipe so they engage with the hydrant clutches, and you then tighten it up. This isn’t easy when the hydrant hole is full of muddy water and you can’t see the clutches.

Once the standpipe is in place, before you can fit any hoses, you have to flush the hydrant.  To do this, you turn it on slowly using the handwheel. This causes the spindle disc of the standpipe to press down on the spring valve, thus opening the valve. The water that comes out is usually dark brown, and full of stones and grit. If you look closely, you can see the delightful brown colour in the next picture. I remind you, this is your drinking and cooking water.

Flushing the hydrant

This is where the problem arises. Sometimes stones and grit get stuck in the spring valve. We initially had this problem, and the valve was stuck wide open. By repeatedly banging down hard on the handwheel with the hydrant bar and turning the standpipe on and off, we eventually got the flow to stop … more or less.

However, there was now an additional problem. The hydrant had recently been replaced, and the water board had not concreted it into the ground – it was only held in place by the surrounding soil. When we couldn’t stop the flow from the hydrant, water was gushing out of the hydrant, washing away most of that soil. The hydrant was wobbling all over the place, and we couldn’t risk using it and having it fail again.

Fortunately, there are hydrants at about every fifth house.

At training last night, we used the hydrant nearest to my house. I’m pleased to say it worked perfectly.

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