Brown water issues worsened by misuse of hydrants

SUSSEX BOROUGH. Complaints of brown water keep coming, and the fix might just be better communication.

| 19 Jul 2022 | 09:33

Sussex Borough will move a water meter from the hydrant near the Department of Public Works close to the fire department in Wantage after several weekends of brown water complaints in the borough.

Councilman Frank Dykstra reported on July 12 that someone was pulling a significant amount of water out of a fire hydrant without notifying the borough. Dykstra said there was another usage increase during the weekend of July 9 and 10, which led to more brown water complaints.

John Perry, who manages the borough’s water plant, said the spikes in usage come as a surprise most of the time, and said while he is proud that the plant runs very well, it is disappointing to see pictures of brown water in bathtubs.

“I couldn’t even imagine how it would be for you folks who live there, especially when I saw the pictures from [Councilman Charles Fronheiser] the other day,” Perry said.

Perry supported the idea of setting a policy in which Borough officials are informed when the hydrant is opened. He said from looking at the graphs, the usage goes from zero to a flow of 250,000 gallons within a minute, which stirs up the system. If the hydrant is opened slowly, it can alleviate the problem.

“First off, they’ve got to let us know and second of all, they’ve got to be very careful because it is a small distribution system,” Perry said of fire departments opening hydrants.

Perry said it’s not a coincidence that every time there are brown water complaints, there is a spike.

“It’s going to cost me $2,500 to put a water conditioner in my house just to take care of water that I’m paying an extreme amount of money for, but I’ve got to do it,” Fronheiser said.

Dykstra said the borough has to start tracking the water in the hydrants and be notified when they are used.

Borough Council President Robert Holowach said the previous plant operator said he didn’t need the notification anymore, and the notifications stopped.