The St. Joseph Fire Department and/or the St. Joseph Water Department periodically flow fire hydrants to check the function of the hydrants, to evaluate the firefighting water available from each hydrant, to monitor the condition of the water system, and to remove rust and other sediment from the water distribution system.

Once hydrants are flowed, the hydrant caps are painted colors that indicate how much water is available from that hydrant. Green indicates 1000 gallons per minute or more; orange indicates 500-1000 gallons per minute; red indicates 100-500 gallons per minute; and black indicates less than 100 gallons per minute. Typically, 400 gallons per minute is considered a sufficient water supply to fight a fire at a single-family home.

Hydrant flushing sometimes stirs up sediment in the water lines and results in temporarily brown or "rusty" water in nearby homes and businesses. You can reduce your chances of having rusty water by minimizing your water use if you know hydrant flushing is taking place in your area. You should particularly avoid washing clothes until the flushing is complete and you have made sure you have flushed any rusty water out of your home plumbing.

If you should have a problem with rusty water, you can flush the rusty water out of your pipes by fully opening a faucet and running cold water until the water runs clear. You may have to open each of your faucets in turn, to remove all of the rusty water from your system. You should open the faucets one at a time, to ensure the maximum water flow to the open faucet. (If you know the plumbing layout of your home, it is most efficient to flow the faucet closest to the public water supply first, then work your way toward the faucet located farthest from the public water supply.) After flowing the faucets, you may wish to remove and check any mesh strainers on your faucets to remove any debris that may be trapped. You may also wish to run water through showers, toilets, and even run an empty washer cycle just to make sure you have cleared any rusty water from your pipes.

If you detect a problem with rusty water, you should not wash your laundry until you have cleared the rusty water from your system. If your laundry does become discolored, you should wash it again immediately--do not dry it first! Drying it will make the rust difficult or impossible to remove! Also, do not use a chlorine bleach with rust-stained laundry; the chlorine reacts with the rust and just makes the problem worse! More information on tackling rust stains in clothing is available on the following web site: Rust in Laundry Information

Please understand that rusty water is not an unusual side effect from a hydrant flushing program, and does not indicate any sort of problem with the water system. The rust results from a reaction between the chlorine in the water, and iron in the pipes. The chlorine keeps the water safe to drink (although we don't recommend drinking the rusty water!) If you have any questions regarding rusty water, please call the Water Plant at 983-1240.

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