A fire hydrant protection device being trialled by Urban Utilities could significantly reduce maintenance costs and extend the life of hydrants for years.
The new ant and debris barrier, known as the ‘hydrant bikini’, was presented by Steve Ellwood from Urban Utilities’ infrastructure maintenance team at the company’s CEO Innovation Hour — a forum where employees can share their ideas for improvement.
Steve Ellwood from Urban Utilities’ infrastructure maintenance team.
“The bikini proved to be effective in preventing soil transportation by ants or water and other debris from entering the hydrant cavities, so we’re excited to expand the trial,” Ellwood said. “It is a low-cost, simple cover made from wetsuit-like material with an adjustable ring down the bottom that can be put onto existing hydrants without turning the water off, so they can be installed without interrupting supply for our customers.”
The neoprene rubber material is expected to last for around 50 years, providing a barrier against water, grass, ants and vermin.
Urban Utilities will conduct an extended trial of the technology, which will see the devices rolled out to around 100 sites across South East Queensland.
“Urban Utilities maintains more than 100,000 fire hydrants across its region and invests around $6 million every year in maintaining, testing and renewing them,” Ellwood said.
“The significant cost of monitoring and cleaning these hydrant box cavities where below-ground spring hydrants are located — which can fill with soil transported by ants — is a common challenge faced by utilities across the world and the hydrant bikini could be a solution.”
The device was appraised by the Water Services Association of Australia after Urban Utilities conducted successful initial trials at three sites from May 2019 to September 2020.
Urban Utilities will trial the devices with delivery partners Downer and Utilita over the next 12 months.
“If successful, the technology may eventually be introduced as standard on our new hydrants and added to existing assets as part of our maintenance program,” Ellwood said.