Winter is already tough on us with snowy days and bone chilling temperatures. To add on to that list, water main and services could break or freeze. City Engineer John Braam says for a while, this winter was shaping up to be problem free.
“We’ve had such a mild winter up until the end of December. The frost is not as deep at this time of year compared to others. So it’s been fairly good for our water mains so far.”
That was back in mid-January and Braam did exercise caution that this year was still young.
“You know we really can’t get a stat until the end of this year and this year has really just begun.
Now let’s fast track to today. Water Quality Manager Dan Huggins says the water services are having a lot of trouble this year.
“This is absolutely a record year for frozen water services. So the water main is the big pipe under the street. The water services are the smaller pipes that bring to water to the individual buildings.”
- As of last week; over 400 water services have either froze or broke.
- Last year was a record year with 260.
- Most years, zero water services freeze or break.
- Most of the services that either froze or broke have occurred in the last 3 weeks of February.
Huggins tells us how the Mother Nature’s sudden switch in temperatures really played a toll on the services.
The past two years have really gripped us with bone chilling temperatures through the majority of the season and Huggins says they’ve been trying to catch up.
“Last summer after we’ve had the then record of frozen services, we went back and dug and lowered 60 of the services we had trouble with. This summer, we are going try and get to 100 of them. Even if they’re supposed to be buried 5.5 feet, some are higher because they have to go over other pipes like the sewer pipes and that’s where we’re finding our troubles spots.”
Huggins notes they have a short term solutions as well when the water service first breaks.
“We’ll connect to person to their neighbours. If they’re willing, we’ll connect it to their outside tap and back feed the person’s house with their neighbour’s house. We’ll adjust the billing because we need to use extra water because the hose will freeze instantly if the water stops flowing.”
Since water is an essential service for residents to have, crews have been working around the clock to ensure that everyone will have water.
“We have to watch the hours the guys are working. Most of the crew is tired. Some are working 15-16 hour shifts. Also, they’re driving heavy equipment as well so we need to make sure they have the right rest period in between.”
Over the past week or so – winter has loosened the grip on us from the freezing temperatures. Although, Huggins says everyone should be aware March and April are a roller coaster of weather.
“We’ve already seen in March the temperatures that are well below zero and lately we’ve had fairly warm temperatures. We can still have snow and freezing temperatures. We really don’t know what’s around the corner.”
If you think your service or water main is broken, Huggins encourages you to call the city so they can look into the problem as fast as they can.
As for the budget, Huggins says they’ll look into it more when it slows down. He says getting water back to the homes is their first priority since it’s an essential service.