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Illegally-Tapped Fire Hydrants On Rise In Detroit

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DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - As southeast Michigan continues to bake amid rising summer temperatures, the number of illegally opened fire hydrants in Detroit has doubled in June from a year ago.

Detroit Fire Department officials say 884 hydrants were illegally opened last month, up from 426 during the same month last year. Officials say on June 28, the hottest day of the month, 190 hydrants were opened citywide.

Detroit Fire Capt. Gregory Turner said open hydrants could result in higher water bills for homeowners and headaches for Detroit firefighters. He told The Detroit News “every second counts” for firefighters who rely on consistent water pressure.

The Fire Department installs hydrant locks to deter the vandalism, but some people take drastic measures to remove them.

“Originally, we used a lock that sat right over the stem (of the  hydrant) and that seemed to work,” Lt. Orlando Watkins told The Detroit News. “But if you give a person enough time, they could usually get it off with a sledgehammer.”

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has since installed a redesigned lock, known as the “Detroit Lock,” on about 27,244 hydrants citywide.

“We would love to see every hydrant in the city have one of these,” said Watkins, “but the cost is just too incredible.”

The new locks cost $256 each. But officials say the tradeoff is worth it, since a fully opened hydrant pumping at an average pressure of 1,000 gallons per minute would cost $36 per hour.

Penalties for tampering with a hydrant are a $500 fine or 90 days in jail, or both.

TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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