Bristol, BCWA not obligated to supply fire hydrants
Neither the Town of Bristol or Bristol County Water Authority are legally obligated to provide fire hydrants.
In an email to town council from Michael Ursillo, the town's legal counsel, on Aug. 7, he states that the "town is responsible for providing proper protection for the town in case of a fire." That is made clear through the town's establishment of a fire department.
"I think the real issue is how that fire suppression is provided," Mr. Ursillo continued. "Not every street in every community has fire hydrants. Tanker trucks, utilization of pools, ponds, lakes, etc. are also used."
Council members requested a legal opinion from Mr. Ursillo regarding the installation of operable fire hydrants in the Poppasquash area. Last year, following a brush fire at Colt State Park, two fire hydrants were removed because they could not provided adequate water flow for fire prevention.
"They never did," Mr. Booth said. "Those hydrants were put in to flush the line along Poppasquash because it doesn't loop back. Flushing the line kept the water from getting stagnant."
The BCWA's responsibly extends no further than provided potable water, and to maintain the lines that are already in place.
The discussion revolves around which entity - the Town of Bristol or the BCWA - should fund the remaining phases that would upgrade the water lines along Poppasquash. The town has already approved spending $400,000 to install a 12-inch line connecting Clifton Street and Duffield Road to Harbor View Avenue. Who funds the remaining amount and what that total is, remains unclear.
"What will probably happen is that there will be a 50/50 split," said Mr. Booth. "We've looked at what it would cost to maintain the 6-inch line, which would be to clean it out and line it with cement. We'd take that cost and subtracted it from the project cost, so the additional cost would have to come from the town."
Since BCWA is member-funded, serving Bristol, Warren and Barrington, Mr. Booth said it wouldn't be right to make other communities pay for an upgraded line that services about 18 homes.
The 8,000 feet of pipe that travels along the outside of Colt State Park from Asylum Road, and separates down into Poppasquash was installed in the early 1900s by Samuel Colt, for his personal use, Mr. Booth said.
"Back then, they didn't put water lines in that would accommodate future development or growth," he said.
The 6-inch line was constructed with iron ore. Over time, mineral deposits corroded the interior, restricting water flow.
"Pipes today are made with a cement lining, so there are no buildups and the water passes straight through," Mr. Booth said.
There were two additions to the Poppasquash pipe: A 600-foot, 8-inch line was added in 1966, providing water to the Bristol Yacht Club area; and another 8-inch line was added in 1990, which supplies water to the West Harbor View plat - about five residential homes.
Residents have raised concern over the lack of adequate fire protection, but Fire Chief Robert Martin has always had a fire prevention plan in place, without needing to tap into a fire hydrant.
Utilizing a tanker task force and mutual aid, a portable tank is continuously filled with the water necessary to extinguish a fire. With a "turbo trap," water can be pumped from sources 200 feet away, such as the harbor, pools or ponds.
"It's like a giant syphon," Chief Martin said. "It holds a couple thousand gallons of water, and takes about five minutes to fill."
The ISO Rating, which insurance companies use to issue fire insurance, is a 9 out of 10 for the Poppasquash area. A 10 reflects zero fire protection, said Chief Martin.
"From my knowledge, the ISO number has never changed out there," he said.
Once the project is complete, roughly a year out, both hydrants along Poppasquash will be operable.