PETERS TOWNSHIP (KDKA) – Loosen the bolt on top of a hydrant and within seconds, hundreds of gallons of water will come rushing out.
Pennsylvania American Water says it’s happening across the South Hills.
“Since June 18, we’ve had almost a dozen reports of hydrant tampering across three communities: Bethel Park, Baldwin and Peters Township,” said Gary Lobaugh with PAWC.
And though they aren’t exactly pointing fingers, the water company says it strongly suspects it’s the work of one or more of its employees with whom they are engaged in a labor dispute.
“We do find it a remarkable and possibly very dangerous coincidence that all this tampering has occurred since they walked off the job on June 18,” Lobaugh said.
“I can’t imagine any union person doing it,” said worker Glenn Eisaman.
What the water company calls a strike, the union calls a lockout, saying their jobs are being farmed out to private contractors. But the idled workers outside the Beck’s Run Pumping Station denied any union involvement in the hydrant tampering.
“I haven’t heard anything about hydrant flowing or anything,” Eisaman said. “I think the company’s just saying that to make us look bad.”
Five hydrants have been tapped open in Peters Township. And while the union blames teenagers looking to cool off, Chief David Fruecht says one eyewitness spotted an unidentified man in a pick-up truck. Freucht says it’s a dangerous situation, especially in the event of a fire.
“They’re putting people’s lives in jeopardy,” Freucht said. “All of us, emergency responders, family people — because if a house does go up and one of those lines is tapped it’s going to affect pressure somewhere.”
But no end in sight for the labor situation. Charges and counter charges are likely to continue to fly until it is resolved.
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