Dear PoPville – Legality of Construction Workers using Fire Hydrants?

“Dear PoPville,

Are construction workers allowed to use their own tools to open city fire hydrants and use that water to mix cement, wash down sites, etc.? This has been happening at the construction site at 14th and Belmont/Chapin.

I know the district has a hard enough time keeping hydrants working and when the workers finish using them, they all leak causing huge pools of mud and eroded curbs.

Just wanted to see if anyone had any ideas about the legality of this.”

43 Comment

  • I would seriously hope that this is not allowed unless there is some special circumstance.

  • If they have permission from the City, probably yes. And since developers in no small part own the city, these guys just may have permission.

  • No way.

  • Not legal and a huge danger to public safety. Call the cops.

  • It looks like you can get a permit to use a fire hydrant for such uses:

  • How else will they get the water they need to improve our fair city?

    I guess they can truck it in or whatnot but seriously as long as they close them up when done a fire hydrant seems a pretty efficient delivery system.

    Suppose they aren’t paying but meh.

  • If they open it and collect water and then close it properly, I don’t see the issue. If it were running full blast into the street, it could have an effect on the water pressure for other hydrants nearby and that certainly is a public safety issue.

    If they’re not closing it properly, I’d report it to 311 and have someone come do it. Or tell them they need to close it better. But if it drips, then it won’t cause calamity in the neighborhood, as far as water pressure goes.

    • ah

      Given the rapid increase in my water bill, I see an issue of them not paying and having me and other ratepayers make up the difference.

  • If a construction project needs a water source for construction, we at DC Water recommend they use a temporary water connection, a water truck, or an on-site water storage tank.

    If those water sources are not available or are prohibited at a project site, then they may use a fire hydrant as a temporary water source as long as they have a Fire Hydrant Use Permit from us. This permit authorizes the operation of a particular fire hydrant for the purpose of obtaining water on a temporary basis.

    Approved users of fire hydrants are responsible for any damage to the fire hydrant outside of normal wear and usage and obtaining a qualified individual to operate the hydrant. They also must have an approved backflow preventer to prevent any possibility of contamination of the water supply and making sure the hydrant remains accessible for emergency service at all times.

    We will check on that particular site to see if they have the proper permit. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    -DC Water Office of External Affairs

    • DC Water:

      They do have a “Rain Truck” which i am guessing supplies them water, but good luck talking to them.

      All dialogue people on the street have tried falls on deaf ears, especially the ones concerning them peeing all over the place, littering, harassing girls and women on our street and using the empty lot adjacent to the building site as a bar after work is done.

      • have you told this to a ANC commissioner or council person? or called the development company? You shouldn’t have to, and it might not help, but it may be worth a try if it’s as annoying as it sounds.

        • I think that is our next logical step. It sucks when you just can’t interact with other people like adults and ask them to behave themselves.

        • And maybe also check with the police commander (or whatever the right term is) for that area? It seems like all of the activities you describe wouldn’t be legal (public urination, littering, harassment, open containers in public).

  • In many cases construction companies (the general contractor)will tap into a city fire hydrant for temporary water on the project site. I have worked on projects where there was no meter required and we could use as much water was needed and on other project where there is a water meter to track the water usage.

  • I hope that “Graham” isn’t CM Graham. Would seem a bit odd that the Ward 1 CM is more concerned with water pressure than law enforcement, even though I too love a well pressured shower.

    I think this is an illegal activity. Moreover, it seems that the construction workers are just trying to get free water for their buckets instead of bringing in a water truck as they should. In other words, make taxpayers pay for their supplies instead of the company.

    DC Water’s website has an entire section devoted to Fire Hydrants which, as the name suggests, should only be used be firefighters to put out fires. Reasons 1,2 and 7 on the list at the site belowseem justification enough to report the activity.

    On their homepage they even state, “Misuse of a public hydrant should be reported to the 24-hour Emergency number 202-612-3400”

    • I guess you didn’t bother to read the other comments before you posted.

      As I posted above, DC Water has a permitting process to allow this type of hydrant use; I linked to the page on their website that explains it.

      Also, see the post from “DC Water” which basically summarizes the relevant points from the web page that I linked to.

  • Totally legal. DCWATER even has a permit for it. Short term permitting fee for construction crews to use hydrants is 55 bucks a day, which is actually quite a bit. 55 bucks is 8 CCF of water, or 6,000 gallons. I doubt that group of guys is using 6000 gallons of water a day.

  • They’re also using the fire hydrant at the construction site for the Mormon church at 16th and Emerson NW. I walk by there every morning, and the hydrant always seems to be running and often isn’t hooked up to anything–the water is just making a big puddle. And when it is hooked up to hose, water is still leaking everywhere. They may have a permit to use the hydrant, but they’re definitely not being responsible with the water, which seems like it should be a condition of the permit.

  • It looks like that particular site is *not* permitted, so if the letter writer sees it happening again, please call our 24-hour Emergency number at 202-612-3400 to report it.

    -DC Water Office of External Affairs

    • Why isn’t the photographic evidence above sufficient?

      Not trying to give D.C. Water a hard time; just curious. Do you have to catch them in the act??

      • Can’t D.C. Water just look at their records to see if this group is permitted to use the water?

      • The city council banned digital images as a primary form of evidence in the commission of a crime.

        In other words:

        You can’t solely use digital photographic evidence to prove a crime has been committed.

        Thank Jim Graham.

        • Wow. So a photo with an old-fashioned film camera would be OK, but a digital photo is not?

          I guess people must’ve been worried about images being Photoshopped… but these days, hardly anyone is taking photos on film.

        • I’m actually glad that’s the case. For every legitimate case like this one, there is the chance a doctored photo gets someone locked up.

  • So often the commentariat here are griping and complaining about DC government/service responsiveness. This is at least the second time I’ve seen DC Water respond directly and in a very timely way to a post. In this case, they’ve even followed up. And yet no one gives a +1 or a thanks.

    Well for my part, +1 and thanks DC Water for checking it out and providing some background as well as advice on what to do next time.

    • +1. It’s refreshing to see this kind of responsiveness. (Or even proactive-ness, since the OP hadn’t contacted D.C. Water directly.)

    • I too was thinking that’s rare that we get an actual city agency to chime in here. A cop every on POP once in a while is great, but it’s nice to get an official response.

    • Yes, +1 to that rep from DC Water.

      As is often the case around here, people write in with these types of “gosh, whatta you fellas think?” questions before they’ve even contacted people who actually know and can do something about it (CM, city, DC Water, Police, etc).

      • Totally. While I’m not wanting to take material away from PoP, it just blows my mind that someone’s first impulse is to write into a blog instead of calling 311, the water department, the fire department, or the police.

      • I’d have utterly no idea whether this was legal or not. I think asking around about on here is a lot easier than trying to navigate government hotlines/offices to get an answer.

        • Especially since people aren’t always sure _which_ government agency is the one they’re supposed to contact. (Last time the issue of fire hydrants came up, I think some people were suggesting that the OP contact the fire department, when in fact hydrants are D.C. Water’s domain.)

  • As Ramona Singer from RHONY would say, “Kadooze to you DC Water”

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