The town is almost done inspecting its more than 3,000 fire hydrant and has identified around 12 percent requiring replacement, Cronin said.
“It doesn’t mean they’ve all failed. It just means they need to be replaced,” Cronin said. “They’re worn out, tired, old. They don’t meet enough of the modern-day requirements for us to leave them in place.”
But there certainly isn’t balance to the 12 percent figure. Since the infrastructure in some parts of town is new, that puts the older parts of town — downtown Andover, Ballardvale — at a much higher level of needing attention, according to Cronin.
The $1 million appropriation would fund the first portion of work, Cronin said. More work will be necessary since it’s unlikely that all of the replacements will be completed by the end of the year. But he said he expects all future work will be funded within his department’s annual budget.
Even if a hydrant in town works, other problems could come to the surface when it is first opened up — literally.
In some parts of town, hydrants have been known to surge mud-brown deposits with water for the first few minutes after they’re opened because lines have become congested with settling material over the years.
That is where flushing comes into play. Cronin said he can’t remember the last time a system-wide flush took place, but a $195,000 investment would seek to correct that.
The money would hit the first two of three Andover water distribution systems, with the flushing and maintenance taking about two years to complete, Cronin said. The third system is older and expected to take another two years, he added.
The $195,000 funding request is considered expensive because of the unpredictable nature of the work involved, according to Cronin.
“The reason it’s going to be expensive the first time through, we’re going to find valves that need to be replaced that we don’t know about,” he said. “Valves have been put into the ground 100 years ago that haven’t been turned.”
The selectmen and the Finance Committee have recommended approval of all four articles. The flushing program cost would come out of water reserve cash, while the other three articles would require a 20-year bond, according to the Finance Committee.