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Hydrant inspections – and what to do if you experience temporarily discolored water 

The 19,000 fire hydrants located within the City of Seattle are maintained and repaired by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), and are inspected by the Seattle Fire Department (SFD). Firefighters inspect all fire hydrants across the City on an annual basis to ensure they are working properly and will provide sufficient water when needed for fighting a fire. Inspecting hydrants can help save lives and protect property. 

The SFD strives to inspect each hydrant within City limits once per year. Inspections occur between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and when the temperature is above 35 degrees. If you live near a fire hydrant that has recently been inspected, your drinking water may appear discolored for up to a few hours. This can happen when hydrant flushing changes the direction or rate of flow in a nearby water main. The discoloration comes from internal pipe rust and sediment getting stirred up. Drinking the water is not harmful but the water can be unsightly. 

If you experience discolored water, SPU recommends running the cold water for a few minutes to see if it is clearing or still discolored. If the water does not clear, let the water sit for one to two hours. Then run cold water for a few minutes in your bathtub or shower. Do not run the hot water to try to clear the water. If the water remains discolored, please contact SPU’s 24/7 Operations Response Center at (206) 386-1800. 

SFD and SPU are working in partnership to help minimize discolored water when hydrants are inspected. The two departments are also sharing information to help keep customers informed about inspections that may have occurred in their neighborhood. This includes a procedure in place whereby SFD notifies SPU’s Operation Response Center just prior to flowing water. Hydrant inspections within neighborhoods is dependent on when the fire station is able to work it into their schedule in between emergency calls and training. Firefighters may plan for or be in the middle of conducting hydrant inspections and get pulled away to an emergent incident, having to push inspections to a later date, which is why advance notice for inspecting the City’s 19,000 hydrants from within 33 fire station districts is unfortunately not feasible.