By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Big Lake police are looking for the public’s help in finding the vandals responsible for releasing 600,000 gallons of water.

Police say someone opened up fire hydrants and released the water in two different areas of town on two separate occasions.

Resident Scott Johnson says he learned about the loss of water pressure from his neighbors, who were venting on social media.

“‘Does anyone not having running water? We have no water pressure in our house,’ and there are 40 responses to this,” Johnson said.

He quickly learned what was going on.

“The mayor got on and said she was talking to the public works director, and he was the one that said they are finding all the open hydrants,” Johnson said.

Police Chief Joel Scharf says vandals hit Big Lake twice, the first time was Friday at about 4 a.m.

“Somebody, people or person, opened up two of our fire hydrants in our marketplace development,” Scharf said.

The hydrants ran unchecked for two hours, releasing 200,000 gallons of water.

The second incident happened on the southern edge of town at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday — with four hydrants opened.

“Four-hundred thousand the second time, so a total of about 600,000 gallons of water lost between the two of them,” Scharf said.

He says what was done is a serious crime, which could have impacted the jobs of firefighters if there was an emergency — and that’s not all.

“We had a building that was close to being flooded from it,” Scharf said. “When you put that much water on the ground, especially this time of the year when the ground is already wet, it could flood basements, flood buildings.”

Police hope to hear from witnesses so they can arrest those involved. Chief Scharf says the running water also caused damage to the hydrant sites from erosion.

He says tampering with a public utility is a felony in the state of Minnesota.

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