By Amy Wenk
amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

Since the city of Sandy Springs incorporated in December 2005, it has ordered only one inspection of the fire hydrants located on public roads in the city.

“At the time, it was the best we could do,” Sandy Springs Deputy Fire Chief Dennis Ham said. But soon city contractors will begin twice-a-year inspections of the approximately 3,300 fire hydrants found on public rights-of-way and called “public” hydrants by city officials. Those hydrants actually are owned and maintained by the Atlanta Watershed Department.

Questions recently were raised about Sandy Springs’ fire hydrant inspections after a hydrant failed and delayed operations during a July 12 fire at The Falls apartments on Spring Creek Lane. The hydrant was located on private property, not public right-of-way, and was supposed to be inspected annually by the property owner. Property owners must prove hydrants are in working order to secure business licenses.

Ham said the city of Sandy Springs decided to step up inspections before the July 12 fire.

The city allocated $90,000 in its 2011 budget for the inspection of the public hydrants. “We are going above and beyond” what is required, Ham said.

Sandy Springs officials are sorting through bids for the project, Ham said.

He said hydrant inspections will begin immediately after a company is selected to perform the work.

In 2008 and 2009, Sandy Springs hired private company Triton Industries, Inc. to inspect hydrants.

Each fire hydrant underwent a 40-point inspection that consisted of flushing, lubing, painting with reflective silver paint and marking its location with a Global Positioning System. The hydrants were then entered into the city’s Geographic Information System, which allows firefighters to electronically pull up the locations of hydrants in emergencies.

“It’s very helpful,” Ham said.

That initial inspection revealed that 8 to 10 percent of the city’s hydrants were out of order.

“That’s because they hadn’t been inspected in years,” Ham said.

He said it had been 10 years or more since Atlanta had inspected the hydrants.

Ham, who managed the inspection, could not give exact numbers of how many hydrants were out of service during the initial inspection.

The hydrants that were found out of service were reported to the Atlanta Watershed Department.

“They were all fixed,” Ham said.

Atlanta has 10 days to complete repairs once reported.

Hydrants on private property, like the hydrant at The Falls, were not included in the Triton inspections.

An official with the Atlanta Watershed Department did not return a call for comment.