Hydrant Levels Worry Nassau

24 September, 1986

Hydrant Levels Worry Nassau

PRINCETON — Low water pressure in borough and township fire hydrants has “the potential to be serious” and “needs our immediate attention,” Fire Commissioner Mark Freda said yesterday.

Commenting on a resurvey of the Princetons’ fire fighting system by a nationwide fire rating and underwriting firm, Freda said he had “enough doubt about the quality of (water) service that people should be concerned.”

Borough, township and fire department officials have been reluctant to publicly discuss the apparent water problems, even after a June examination showed some hydrants in the township are providing less than one-third the water output the survey required.

Township Deputy Mayor Thomas M. Poole yesterday said that he was disturbed at the water pressure results of the survey. “This isn’t the first time we got these numbers. We’ve gotten them before,” he said.

Elizabethtown Water Company spokesman Philip Francis questioned how hydrants were chosen for the test, but conceded the survey “shows there’s a problem we will have to address.” Francis, manager of systems development for the utility, said engineers are investigating the report and will make recommendations.

Joseph A. Massington, survey services supervisor for ISO Commercial Risk Services of Mount Laurel, said his organization provides “1,300 insurance companies with rates and underwriting information.”

Massington said ISO provided a resurvey on request that was “. ..not a determination of a level of fire protection for life and safety. I’ve been frank with you. If there is a feud between the fire department and water utility, that is not our role.”

Fire commissioners Poole and Freda have requested a meeting with ISO to discuss the survey. After that meeting township officials will be in a better position to determine a response, according to James J. Pascale, administrator.

Freda, a borough councilman, said there are “an awful lot of four and six-inch lines that are many years old” in the combined borough-township fire district. If you have a large fire in the business district with a five- to eight-minute head start, it’s possible to lose a few buildings.”

Francis claimed ISO chose to test “only the small, old lines which gives a very different impression” that is “showing the worst aspect of the system.” Among hydrants tested showing poorest results were ones at Cherry Hill Road and Red Hill Road with 650 gallons per minute available when 2,250 were recommended by ISO; Edgerstoune and Winant at the entrance to the Hun School with 850 gallons where 3,000 were recommended.

Francis said gallon figures by ISO are “optimum” ; and defended Elizabethtown’s performance as meeting New Jersey Public Utility Commission minimum standards that “might not be wanted by the first department or the ISO.”

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