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Mayors upset with lack of operable hydrants

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by Janjeera Hail

Guam - The problems keep piling on for the Guam Fire Department, as fire hydrants around the island are offline, making it even more difficult for firefighters to do their job.  Low on ambulances, low on medical supplies, and now you can add water to the list of things GFD is lacking. 

At today's Mayors Council of Guam meeting, village leaders raised their growing concerns over the lack of working fire hydrants across the island.  GFD Spokesperson Joey San Nicolas says it's a serious problem when there's an emergency, but that his agency's hands are tied - all they can do is notify the Guam Waterworks Authority when a hydrant needs repair and wait.

"Our only recourse I when we come up to a situation where a hydrant is needed and that one is not operable," said San Nicolas.  "We go up to the next one and to the next one until we find one that's working and then we set up a water tender schedule, which is part of what we're trained to do."

GWA Director John Benavente says it's a problem his agency has known about for some time. And while it won't be a cheap fix, funds have been identified to address the problem - eventually.  "We've done a survey of what we need to get the fire hydrants up to speed. I think he estimated about $10 million. Part of the bond money will begin to address the fire hydrant issue," he explained.

But bond money won't be available until December or January. Until then, Benavente says they want to work with the fire department to make sure working fire hydrants are clearly identified, and the department knows exactly which hydrant is usable so they're prepared when an emergency situation happens.  "We wanted to restart the program that was there before where actually the fire department was going out and doing hydrant maintenance, hydrant checks, and hydrant flushing and then marking the hydrant itself," he said.

But while they appreciate the interim measures, mayors like Mangilao's Nito Blas say they want to see their resident's safety be a top priority at GWA.  "But I'd like to get Guam Waterworks to act on that right away," the mayor noted.  "That should be a priority because it's a matter of life and death."

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