After some residents spotted people stealing water from fire hydrants, Carroll County officials are warning that the thefts could damage the hydrants beyond use.
The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office reported an uptick in water thefts and warned citizens against such action in a June 5 news release. Andrew Watcher, utilities bureau chief for the Carroll County Bureau of Utilities, said in a Wednesday interview that residents in the Freedom District, where the county provides water in the Eldersburg and Sykesville area, noticed people taking water from hydrants and reported the activity.
“Most incidents occur on lightly traveled, residential roadways,” Watcher said.
Most of the offenders appear to have been “small-time landscape operators” who helped themselves to water from the hydrants, Watcher said. This presents two problems: theft and damage.
Some hydrants were damaged by the “hammering impact of shutting the hydrant off abruptly rather than gradually,” Watcher said. The hydrants are still operational, but if one is damaged beyond repair it would cost about $1,500 to replace, he said. Watcher fears a fire department could struggle to connect a hose properly to a damaged hydrant.
Stealing water from hydrants does not affect residents’ water bills, Watcher said.
A few offenders were caught in the act, Watcher said, and they may face civil penalties and/or criminal charges. Tampering with water meters is also theft, the Sheriff’s Office said in its news release.