Water company in Muncie believes main breaks due to water theft

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MUNCIE, Ind. - A series of water main breaks on the city's south side raised some red flags for crews trying to fix the water problem. A total of four water main breaks happened along S. Madison St. Monday morning.

Officials at Indiana American Water, which runs the city's water utility, said they believe someone tampered with the fire hydrant to take water illegally.

“Main breaks aren’t an unusual thing for us, but to have four at the same time, in the same area, it usually points to something suspicious," said Indiana American Water spokesperson Joe Loughmiller. "In this case, we believe it was probably somebody illegally on a fire hydrant somewhere and probably opened or closed that thing too quickly. In that case, you get what is called a water hammer which basically causes a big fluctuation in water pressure within the line and in this case, blew open the line in two or three different points there.”

The breaks occurred along Madison Street, between E. 21st St. and Memorial Drive. Loughmiller said it left 40 homes and 27 businesses, including 11 restaurants, without water for approximately 12 hours while crews made necessary repairs. The work and water lost will total well over $10,000.

While Loughmiller isn't exactly sure why someone wanted to take water directly from a hydrant, he said its usually someone trying to take several hundred gallons.

“It’s a real problem for us," said Loughmiller. "This isn’t necessarily an isolated incident for us. This happens on a regular basis. We get calls from people and the police do too about people stealing water.”

The water company actually has a bulk filling station at 5711 E. Jackson St. The company plans to open a second location west of Muncie by the end of 2017. A customer can buy 750 gallons of water for $1.75.

Anyone caught taking water from a hydrant can be charged with stealing. Fines and charges can vary from city to city.

Loughmiller said firefighters can find out the hard way, and at a inopportune time, about a fire hydrant not working.

"In some cases, we don’t know the hydrant’s been damaged and we don’t find that out until the fire department is out there trying to put out a fire," said Loughmiller.

Anyone spotting someone trying to tap into a fire hydrant should call their local police department or water utility. Customers of Indiana American Water are asked to call 1-800-492-8373.

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