Billerica Cracking Down on Theft of Water From Fire Hydrants

Town Manager John Curran of Billerica, Massachusetts, says that people are stealing water from fire hydrants, leading to water main breaks and brown water

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A Massachusetts town is trying to crack down on the theft of water from fire hydrants.

Officials in Billerica say the problem is leading to water main breaks and brown water.

Town Manager John Curran told NBC10 Boston that some contractors are pulling up to fire hydrants and taking the water for their own use -- and opening and closing the hydrants improperly is causing more problems than one, he said.

"More than stealing the water, it causes a great inconvenience for the town and the residents," said Curran.

Curran suspects thieves are using the town's water for their own benefit, whether they are contractors or landscaping businesses.

It's not just that they are tapping into this precious resource and not paying for it, but it's the way they are reportedly doing it, said Curran, that is causing other unintended consequences.

"When you open a hydrant, you can change the directional flow of the water in the system, and when you change the directional flow, it takes the gunk off the sides of the pipes and it disturbs it and creates brown water," he explained.

The problem is such that it prompted the town to alert its residents through social media, posting an image as an example of unauthorized hydrant tapping and how it can lead to water main breaks and brown water.

"There have been times where the water is pouring out brown," acknowledged Ashely Wyshak.

Wyshak grew up and no works in Billerica and has noticed periodic water disruptions and discoloration.

"I never would've assumed that water was being stolen. That's shocking to me," she said.

Alec Greenlaw, a Billerica resident, believes there's more to the water issues in town.

"They should just do a better job at cleaning them out, flushing them out, whatever they have to do. But other than that, I don't think it's people messing with the hydrants that's causing it," argued Greenlaw.

Curran's hope is that at least residents become more aware fire hydrant water theft.

"If I see someone stealing water from a Billerica fire hydrant, I will tell the town," said Wyshak.

The town manager expects fire hydrant water theft to become more frequent during the summer months, warning thieves the town will press charges if they are caught in the act.

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