CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia American Water is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who can help police catch whoever tampered with fire hydrants in Putnam County early Sunday.
The company said vandals opened 11 hydrants along W.Va. 34 between Hurricane and Hamlin sometime before 3 a.m. Sunday. Water levels in a nearby storage tank dropped, and service for about 100 customers was disrupted.
About 800,000 gallons spilled onto nearby property and roads before crews could repair and close the hydrants. That's roughly equal to the amount of water 7,200 households would use in one day.
The company estimated total damages and lost water costs totaled nearly $11,000.
While water service was restored to the area by 6 a.m., officials said the outage and fire hydrant tampering posed a potential threat to public safety.
"If there had been a house fire or brush fire in this area during the early morning hours, the responding fire department would have arrived to inadequate water pressure and been unable to effectively fight the fire - putting lives and property at stake," West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre said in a statement.
Company spokeswoman Laura Jordan said this was the second time vandals have tampered with fire hydrants in this area. She said the first incident occurred last Halloween night.
That incident involved fewer hydrants, however. With more hydrants involved this time, Jordan said the company wanted to help law enforcement send a message that it will not tolerate hydrant tampering.
"This certainly is not a prank," she said. "It's a very serious crime, there's a potential for a fire hazard, and obviously it's an inconvenience to our customers.
"Since this is the second time this happened in that area, and it involved a few more hydrants this time, we thought we'd take a step forward and offer the reward and bring awareness of the situation," Jordan said.
Last year the state Legislature passed a law making it a felony to cause a utility service disruption.
While the law was primarily designed to combat copper theft, it also applies to water service.
According to state code, anyone charged with this crime could face up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.