By Joe Barker

Missourian Staff Writer

Every fire hydrant in Washington is expected to have a new coat of paint by November.

Late last year, the public works department started on a plan to flow test and repaint each fire hydrant in the city. Water/Wastewater Superintendent Kevin Quaethem said the work is about 45 percent done.

The city has around 1,200 hydrants to check and repaint. Quaethem said progress was slow going initially, but has recently picked up the pace.

A part-time public works employee has taken a liking to painting the bodies of the hydrants, Quaethem said. At his current pace, all the bodies in the city should be freshly painted yellow by November.

“Our goal is to have them all done before the bad weather,” he said.

The tops will be painted when the hydrants are flow tested.

“What we’d like to do is the flow test first, and then paint the whole thing,” Quaethem said. “Because of manpower, we’re doing it this way. It’s not normally the way we do it, but you got to do what you got to do.”

City crews will be dropping each hydrant down to 20 PSI before performing the test. Quaethem said 20 PSI is the lowest acceptable pressure so the tests will reveal the accurate fire flow of each hydrant.

Once each hydrant is tested, the tops will be repainted. Unlike the bodies, the tops are color coded depending on fire flow.

Blue-topped hydrants are at the top of the list for best flow pressures followed by green, orange and then red.

Quaethem said some tops will be repainted their original colors, while others will be upgraded. Since the last big flow test, lines have been changed and upgraded.

For example, changing a service line from a 4-inch feed to a 6-inch feed will greatly improve the flow and cause previously orange hydrants to now be green.

The color coding is a visual system to help fire department crews know about the water pressure in the area.

Quaethem said the colored hydrants tested at 20 PSI should help give the city a better Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating. The ISO rating helps set insurance rates at businesses and homes.