Water Week Spotlight: Matt Girard, Hydrant Crew Chief

You pass by dozens of them a day and probably don’t think twice. Hydrants are all over our city, and some have even been here for over 100 years! This piece of infrastructure is another critical component to water access in our community. Matt Girard, Hydrant Crew Chief, shares with us some of the important work they do each day.

Zone 3 hydrant crew, Matt Girard (right) and Mike Puckett (left)

Matt Girard and Mike Puckett begin their day at our Zone 3 location where they receive their assignments for the day. Depending on the hydrant work that needs to be done, they will work on anywhere from four to eight hydrants in a single day. Matt has been in his role for over 23 years, and Mike recently transitioned within Charlotte Water to work on the hydrant crew just a couple of months ago, so he has quite the wealth of knowledge with Matt as his trainer in this role! Hydrant crews only have two staff members per crew, and one crew for each of our zones. Back in the day, there was only one crew assigned for the entire service area!

Hydrant crews handle all hydrant maintenance, repairs, and painting of hydrants. Hydrants are made out of cast iron, and if taken care of properly, they can last up to 100 years! The oldest hydrant Matt has come across was located in Uptown Charlotte from the year 1887. If you stop and notice, hydrants will have the year they were installed indicated on them. If the hydrant is older than 1930, then you won’t see the date listed on the side.

On this particular day, Matt and Mike start their day on a hydrant repair out in the Matthews area. For this particular repair, the hydrant was leaking, so they were there to determine the cause. To begin, they had to shut off the nearby water valve and take it apart to investigate further. In order to do this they needed to take the stem of the hydrant out to see the bottom of it, to determine the issue.

It is quite the manual and labor intensive process to take apart the hydrant. First they must remove the top of the hydrant completely with a socket and impact wrench so they can access the stem and remove it. Then they use hydraulics instead of a manual wrench to remove the stem.

Once the stem is removed completely, they are able to see the cause of the leak. Matt explains that the valve was not shutting off properly due to damage to the rubber valve at the bottom. This damage was likely caused by debris that was not flushed out properly and caused wear and tear on the rubber valve.

Matt pointing to the cause of the leak – the rubber valve, which acts as a seal, has been damaged

Matt and Mike take the stem and valve back to their truck to remove and replace the main valve. The main valve acts as a seal to shut the hydrant off when it is use. Since it is made of just rubber, it can be damaged over time if not flushed properly.

After the rubber valve has been replaced and sealed, the stem is put back into the hydrant.

When putting the stem back in, they slowly turn water valve back on to help seal it into place. This process helps to push all of the air out and seal it. When they start to see the water, they will pull it up manually to seal it, turn it one more time to keep it in place, put the top back on, then attach the hose and turn the water valve up all the way and push out any remaining air.

After that is complete, the final step is to let the hydrant drain for about five minutes, while they clean up and put any materials back in the truck. Then they seal it up and paint the hydrant if needed, then on to the next one!

Thank you to Matt and Mike for letting us follow along with your day, and thank you for all that you and the hydrant crews do to keep our hydrants working properly throughout the community!

We hope you have enjoyed following along all week and learning more about a “day in the life” of some of our staff members during National Drinking Water Week!

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