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East Williston may fine National Grid over illegal use of hydrant

A fire hydrant located on Bengeyfield drive in

A fire hydrant located on Bengeyfield drive in East Williston is seen on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. National Grid contractors doing work in the area reportedly tapped into the hydrant, which led to complaints of rusty water from residents. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Unauthorized access by a National Grid contractor to a fire hydrant in East Williston turned residents’ water brown last week, and the action may result in a fine, village officials said.

The discoloration was due to water usage by Asplundh, whose workers illegally accessed a hydrant on Bengeyfield Drive during a paving project, officials said. Mayor David Tanner said the action stirred up sediment in the water main, which led to brown, rusty water in several homes.

“A lot of communities have the same sort of predicament; we try to control access to the fire hydrants,” Tanner said, adding that the incident wasn’t the first time Asplundh illegally tapped into village fire hydrants.

Village code forbids unauthorized water usage, which is punishable by a $250 fine. The village is considering increasing the penalty, Tanner said.

Last week, Asplundh workers completed routine paving work following the installation of a 250-foot gas main in late January to supply more gas to East Williston, said Wendy Ladd, a National Grid spokeswoman. Asplundh workers needed water to finish the work and used the hydrant on Bengeyfield Drive, Ladd said.

“We expect our contractors to follow the permit process of the villages they work in,” she said. “We have spoken to Asplundh and they have assured us that this will not happen again.”

East Williston issued a summons to National Grid last Friday to appear at village court in March, but has yet to receive a response, village officials said. Ladd said National Grid will “respond accordingly.”

Tanner said occasional rusty water is a problem East Williston has dealt with for several decades, and that it could be a result of the village’s aging pipes. Its water mains are flushed once a year to remove sediment, but Tanner said the routine cleaning may now be done twice a year.

Longtime resident Harold Bock said the affected neighborhood occasionally experienced discolored water after routine water main flushing and fire department usage, but that the lack of notification was a new and serious problem.

“What if you’re using it and all of a sudden the water goes rusty on you? It’s just not right,” Bock said.

Rusty water isn’t considered a health hazard by the Environmental Protection Agency, but is labeled as a secondary aesthetic concern. Rust, which is oxidized iron, isn’t indicative of contaminants such as bacteria or lead.

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