A fire hydrant protection device is being trialled by Urban Utilities, which could potentially extend the life of fire hydrants for years and significantly reduce maintenance costs.  

Urban Utilities’ infrastructure maintenance team member Steve Ellwood presented the new ant, vermin and debris barrier, known as the ‘hydrant bikini’, at the company’s CEO Innovation Hour – a forum where employees can share their ideas for improvement. 

Mr Ellwood said, “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. 

“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 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.”

Urban Utilities will now conduct an extended Australian-first trial of the technology which will see  the devices rolled out to around 100 sites across South East Queensland. 

The device was appraised by industry body, Water Services Association of Australia, after Urban Utilities conducted successful initial trials at three sites from May 2019 to September 2020.  

Mr 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 will last for around 50 years and will give the hydrant a barrier to  keep water, grass, ants and vermin out to protect the essential asset for years.” 

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,” Mr Ellwood said. 

For more on Urban Utilities world-leading research and development, visit here. 

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