American Water is Painting the Town Yellow

American Water believes fire hydrants are one of the most visible signs of the company’s presence in the communities it serves.

Th American Hydrant Painters

American Water believes fire hydrants are one of the most visible signs of the company’s presence in the communities it serves. For this reason, the company has made a commitment to not only keep its thousands of hydrants working reliably, but looking good as well.

Th American Hydrant Painters
A drop cloth and portable shield protect the grass and sidewalk during spray painting.
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American Water’s Pittsburgh Operations is undertaking a mass effort to paint more than 6,600 fire hydrants in 42 suburban Pittsburgh communities, including nine wards on the southern end of the city that are served by the company. A fresh coat of paint will help firefighters easily locate fire hydrants in times of emergency.

Recognizing that the previous method of hand painting the hydrants was costly and inefficient, the Pittsburgh team has developed a portable powered wash-and-paint system. The system, which sits neatly organized on the bed of a utility truck, offers pre-washing and drying of hydrants, followed by a multi-coat paint done by a direct-to-metal spray paint system.

This approach, which has caused hydrant painting in suburban Pittsburgh to prosper, reduces labor time and improves performance. With just one gallon of the PPG-DTM Safety Yellow paint, the two-man crew can paint approximately 22 hydrants.

The spray application is also much neater than hand painting. The crew cut a traffic barrel in half and riveted the pieces together to form a six-foot-tall shield that fits over the hydrant being painted. Coupled with a drop cloth, the system keeps paint off nearby sidewalks. For work near vehicles or property, a six-foot by six-foot collapsible tent/shield can be used to control overspray on windy days.

The new approach also accounts for employee safety; painters are outfitted with respirators to avoid breathing in fumes from the sprayed coating.

A gas-powered generator provides electricity for the painting rig. Prior to painting, the hydrant is power-washed using a citrus-based degreasing cleanser that is biodegradable and environmentally friendly. The team has the option to dry the hydrants using compressed air, but will most often wash a group of hydrants and then come back the next day to paint them.

Th American Powerwashing
The hydrants are power-washed using a biodegradable citrus-based degreasing cleanser.
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The American Water painting team is now cleaning and coating approximately thirteen hydrants a day. A total of 647 hydrants have been painted to date. The painters hope to eventually paint 20-25 fire hydrants per day once they become more accustomed to the system.

About the Author:

A 24-year Pennsylvania American Water veteran, Tony “Skip” Emanuele is currently the network superintendent of the company’s Pittsburgh Operations. As such, he oversees the maintenance and repair of a distribution system comprising 1,500 miles of main and 6,600 fire hydrants.

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