Throwing Water Mains for a Loop

by: Daniel Kucera

An Ohio court has upheld a requirement of a municipal fire code that customers' onsite fire mains be looped.

Property owners planned to construct large office buildings. Plans submitted to the city, and approved, called for looped fire mains on the property. After construction began, the property owners each installed a single dead-end line.

The city sued to force the owners to comply with the city fire code requirement of looping. In response, it was asserted that the city code was in conflict with the state building code. The trial court held for the property owners, and the city appealed.

On appeal, the city argued that the looping requirement is beneficial for fire protection because it assures greater water supply and pressure and adequate water supply in the event of a main break.

The property owners argued that the city failed to show that the non-looped mains yielded inadequate pressure. They also asserted that looping would not maintain pressure after a main break unless shut off valves were properly placed.

The city responded that a looped system minimized less of pressure during large flows. Without a loop it argued, the opening of one hydrant would seriously reduce pressure to the remaining hydrants.

The Ohio Court of Appeals reversed. City of Mayfield Heights v. Snappy Car Rental, 674 N.E.2d 1193 (Ohio App. 8 Dist. 1995). The Court relied upon the presumption that municipal ordinances are valid. It held that the property owners failed their burden of proof to show that the requirements imposed by the city ordinances are unreasonable and unnecessary to the health and safety of the residents.

Dan Kucera is a partner with the Chicago law firm of Chapman and Cutler, specializing in public utilities, water and wastewater and environmental law. Tel: (312) 845-3757; Fax: (312) 701-2361; email: