3/6/2014 2:04:00 PM 34 frozen water services so far
by Ken Haggerty
Cannon Falls residents and the city public works department are continuing to struggle with frozen water services as one of the coldest winters of the past 100 years won't go away.
Cannon Falls public works director Tom Bergeson said the city has now taken reports of 34 frozen water services. He calls it an epidemic that cities all over Minnesota are dealing with. Bergeson said he knows of three or four lines that have refrozen after being thawed, even with people dripping a small flow of water.
Bergeson and the city have given no firm answers to homeowners on how much and even if the city will be able to offer credit on bloated sewer and water bills that result from people running water to prevent freezing.
"If it seems like we are winging it, we are," said Bergeson.
The public works committee was going to recommend the city council approve a motion at its March 6 meeting to allow property owners to pay a base amount on their monthly bill and not be given any penalties for underpaid bills until this freeze breaks and the city can figure out total costs and maybe try to work out some type of credit plan for those who have run up high water and sewer bills in an effort to avoid freezing.
Bergeson said he thinks the frost level is at about six feet. He thinks the frost may go deeper yet as it usually does when air temperatures start to rise. Most city water services are buried at seven and a half feet. "We're approaching a dangerous level; this may be the tip of the iceberg," said Bergeson.
Interim city administrator Lanell Endres said she thinks legally the city cannot offer much assistance to those people who are hiring people to run electrical current on the frozen pipes from their homes to the city's water mains. She said homeowners own that pipe and are responsible for its maintenance.
Worst off are those people like Joanne Thiem on Cannon Court, a cul de sac in the east side neighborhood behind the high school. The city put in new plastic PVC water service lines this past summer and she and a few of her neighbors do not have the electrical current thawing option open to them that those with cast iron pipes have. A hot jet thawing system also does not work well with the PVC lines.
"I'm living like a pioneer woman until this thaws out, bucketing water in," said Thiem. She said she now hopes that when it does thaw, that the line isn't cracked or fittings aren't broken. Thiem and neighbors question the engineering of the new water lines, especially the extended exposure to a plowed street surface from the main to their homes with the large cul de sac.
Bergeson said if water temperature at your tap is below 38 degrees, you may want to consider taking precautions. The city has tried to reduce the water level in the tower to try and prevent the reservoir from becoming too cold.
He said watch for signs of rust in the water or air in the stream as warning signs that freezing may be imminent.
Other tips: If lines are frozen, remember to unplug your softener; if you are on an autopay for water billling, cancel that before a large bill is automatically withdrawn.