Why We Flush Mains

Flushing of the Jamestown water distribution system accomplishes several things.

  • By systematically opening hydrants and allowing the water to run full force, the utility flushes out minerals, sediment and corrosion products that have settled in the mains.

  • This process allows the utility to achieve greater flows through its mains.

  • This also serves as an opportunity for the operators to perform valve and hydrant inspections for optimal fire protection.

There is an alternative to flushing and that is to instill corrosion inhibiting chemicals in the water system. With the addition of chemicals to take the place of flushing, other problems arise.

First: each time you add a chemical to the water, you change the water's taste, odor, appearance and "mouth feel". The utility firmly believes in adding only the minimum of chlorine needed for disinfection and fluoride for tooth decay prevention.

Second: the cost of water escalates because of the cost of the chemicals and monitoring. Flushing is performed, weather permitting, twice each year - in the spring and the fall.

Frequently Asked Questions about Flushing

1. When will I see discolored water / will I only see discolored water on my scheduled flushing day?
The greatest likelihood that you will see discolored water is while the BPU is flushing in your immediate area on your scheduled flushing day. However, please be aware that you may see discolored water at any time during BPU water main flushing, because (1) flushing may occur in your general area over a multi-day period, and (2) flushing disrupts the entire water system and it is difficult to predict exactly when and where discolored water will occur.

With this in mind, please be sure to check for discolored water before doing laundry while BPU daytime flushing is taking place. We suggest that you wait to do laundry on days other than your scheduled flushing day, because the discolored water can stain your clothes (especially white and light colored clothing). If it is your scheduled flushing day, we also recommend that you be careful to check for discolored water before using hot water (e.g. to take a shower) during the hours that flushing is set to occur. It may be best to try to take showers or baths before or after (in the early morning or evening) flushing is set to take place on your scheduled flushing day.

2. Why should I be aware of my scheduled flushing day?
The primary precautions that should be taken during BPU water main flushing are to check for discolored water before doing laundry and to try to avoid pulling discolored water into your hot water tank (refer to Question 3 for how to check for discolored water). If discolored water were to stain your clothes while doing laundry or be pulled into your hot water tank, please see Questions 5 and 6, respectively.

You may also want to check for discolored water before using water for cooking or drinking; we suggest that you store some water a day or so ahead of time so that you have some available for cooking and drinking during your scheduled flushing day. Though discolored water is displeasing to look at, please remember that it is safe to drink and to use if needed.

3. How can I check for discolored water in my home?
To check for discolored water, turn on the cold-water spigot in either your bath tub or bathroom sink for a couple of minutes. It is easiest to see discolored water in a white tub or sink. If the water is clear after a couple of minutes, it should indicate that the water out in the water main is clear as well, and therefore, you should be able to resume using your water as usual at that time. However, if the water is discolored after a couple of minutes, turn the water off and wait for an hour or so until you check again. Discolored water may occur for period of anywhere up to 24 hours, but during flushing it typically lasts for a few hours.

If discolored water was pulled into your home, continue to check for discolored water (once an hour, as described above) until you notice clear water running from the spigot. At this point, you can flush out any additional discolored water that may be left in your household plumbing by running cold water from faucets as necessary until the water runs clear from each faucet. Additionally, before doing your next load of laundry (especially if you will be washing whites or light colors), you can run your washing machine through one cold wash cycle without clothes to flush out any discolored water that may be present in your washing machine or the line feeding your washing machine.

4. Is it safe to use and flush my toilet on my scheduled flushing day?
The only time you should try to avoid flushing your toilet is when the BPU is flushing your street directly (look for the BPU flushing crew on your street), as pressure surges can possibly occur. Overall, however, it is safe to use and flush your toilet during daytime flushing, even on your scheduled flushing day. If you flush your toilet and see discolored water, continue to use and flush your toilet throughout the day as needed. Once the water settles in the main (which may take some time), you will eventually draw clear water into your household plumbing again, and the discolored water will clear from your toilet.

5. What if I did laundry and the discolored water stained my clothes?
Do not dry the clothes (keep them wet) or they will become permanently stained when dried. Commercial rust removers are available to you free of charge at BPU Customer Service or at Town and Village offices (Town of Ellicott office and Falconer, Celoron, Lakewood Village offices). Or you can go to the store and buy one yourself. When your water clears up (refer to Question 3), re-wash your clothes using the rust remover - there are instructions on the packet or bottle.

6. What if I pulled discolored water into my hot water tank?
If you are using hot water and see that it is discolored, we recommend that you stop using the water at that time. Following the steps described under Question 3, continue to check for discolored water using a cold-water spigot until you see that the water has cleared.

At this point, you have a couple of different options. First, if you use hot water and see that it is still discolored, you can wait until the sediment settles in your tank (wait for a couple of hours if possible) before you check the hot water again. The sediment in the discolored water will eventually settle to the bottom of the tank. Please note that if you continue to use the hot water even though it is discolored, it will only keep the sediment stirred up in the tank rather than allowing it to settle. The sediment can be removed later on by flushing your hot water tank (it is recommended that a hot water tank be flushed annually). If you do not know how to properly flush your hot water tank, you can hire a professional to help you in this process. The second option is to flush your hot water tank the day that the discolored water is drawn into the tank. This would need to be completed only after you ensure that the water coming from a cold-water spigot in your home is clear, because you would not want to re-fill your tank with discolored water if the water has not yet settled in the water main.

7. Is discolored water safe?
Yes, discolored water is safe to drink and to use, just displeasing to look at. The water is treated with chlorine, which keeps the water safe and is still present in the water even if it is discolored.

8. What if I do not want to drink or cook using discolored water, even if it is safe?
We recommend that you store some water a day or so ahead of time so that you have some available for drinking and cooking during your scheduled flushing time.

9. Why does the BPU flush their water mains?
Our water distribution system is old and has unlined cast iron pipes. Water flowing through the iron pipes leads to rust build-up in the pipes; this is in addition to the build-up of sediment and minerals that naturally occur in the water. Therefore, the BPU performs hydrant flushing twice a year to clean out the rust and sediment from the pipes. This allows for greater water flow through the pipes and allows the flushing operators to perform valve and hydrant inspections for fire protection.

10. Why havenít other places I have lived in performed flushing?
Flushing is performed nationally. An alternative to flushing that other places may use is to add chemicals (orthophosphates) to the water; the chemicals line the pipes and prevent rust from forming and accumulating in the pipes. The BPU, however, decided not to add these chemicals to our water because they may change the taste and feel of the water.

11. Why does the BPU flush during the daytime?
The BPU flushes during the daytime primarily because of increased visibility and safety. Better visibility during the day allows operators to more effectively monitor the clarity of the water flowing from the hydrant and track the flow of the water in an effort to avoid property damage. Also, operators can see and be seen better during the day which is safer for all of those involved.

12. My area was just flushed and I am experiencing low pressure or volume from my faucet, why?
Did you use water during your scheduled flushing time and was the water discolored? If so, then the sediment in the discolored water may have clogged the screen (or aerator) in the faucet and it needs to be cleared. If that is not the issue, then please contact BPU Customer Service for assistance.

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