CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A state Public Service Commission task force is finalizing proposed rules for 50,000 fire hydrants in operation across the state.

The Fire Hydrant Task Force held its third and final meeting Monday at PSC offices in Charleston.

Charlotte Lane

The PSC ordered a general investigation last year after a few situations where fires occurred and fire hydrants weren’t working or provided very little water. The state legislature followed that action with a bill this year that allows the PSC to establish rules governing hydrants. The PSC created the task force to recommend the rules.

Task Force Chairman Jim Ellars, a senior engineer with the PSC, said the meetings were productive.

“We’ve had three meetings as ordered by the commission and I think that has been very successful. There have been some minor disagreements, I would say, but for the most part the major issues have been agreed upon,” Ellars said.

The task force will submit a 16-page document titled “rules for the inspection, flow testing, and marking of public fire hydrants” to the PSC for its review. It until June 30 to submit it. The PSC will review it and issue the rules, according to PSC Chairman Charlotte Lane.

“This has been a matter of serious public concern since the Commission began looking into the status and safety of fire hydrants last year,” Lane said. “At that time, we learned no agency directly oversaw fire hydrants and their operations.”

Ellars said he’s very comfortable with the recommendations.

“This has been a very smooth rule-making task force and I’m pleasantly surprised that it went as well as it did,” he said.

The proposed rules focus on operation, maintenance and testing. It’s proposed that all fire hydrants be inspected every year and be tested for adequate water flow every five years.

Representatives of 27 different groups were offered to take part in the process. Ellars said that has made for a better product.

“Having the firefighters, having the water utilities and other stakeholders here who are out there every day who are doing this and technically proficient at doing this, we want to hear from them,” he said.

The PSC asked the legislature before this year’s session to approve a $70 million hydrant replacement program over a 10-year period but the proposal got no traction.

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