The cost of fire hydrant fun

As the city sweated it out during last week’s heat wave, the Water Department got approximately 45 calls reporting illegally opened fire hydrants. Sorry to be such spoilsports, but: Those cool-downs came with a price tag for taxpayers.

In a 2008 statement, the Water Department said that open fire hydrants cost taxpayers about $1 million a year. The cost now is “significantly lower,” says spokesman John DiGiulio, because the department started putting locks on the hydrants and began a media campaign to inform the public it’s not safe or legal to open a hydrant. But it still costs.

Why? It costs money to pay the workers who go out to shut off an open hydrant. Plus, sometimes no one calls, and then you’ve got the added cost of wasting water.

If we really want to get technical, open hydrants can suck up police officers’ time, too, if hydrant users are unwilling to comply. DiGiulio says when he saw his neighbors playing in an open hydrant’s water, he had two choices: Get beat with the lock they took off the hydrant or walk away.

“It can get pretty crazy, and sometimes the cops will have to come in and intervene,” DiGiulio said.

If you want to report an open hydrant, call the Water Department at 215-685-6300. And hey: At least there are the city pools, which start opening on June 23.

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