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Cedar Rapids Sees Record Number of Water Main Breaks in January

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - City crews have repaired a record number of their water mains this month.

Officials have counted 40 breaks since January 1st. The month's average is about 16, and this time last year Cedar Rapids had only nine.

The water division can summarize this January in two words.

"War zone," said Bill Miller, the city's water distribution manager.

Miller said his personnel have been battling Mother Nature as her salvos of cold have busted the many municipal water mains. Pipes are being split in half because frost is penetrating deep into the ground and creating pressure.

"It just presses down on the pipe and eventually this pipe will crack and break," said Miller.

Miller said sometimes breaks happen two or three times a day. He said if you count a few private mains, earlier this month Cedar Rapids had seven split in 24 hours.

Not a quick fix. Crews have to shut down the leaking line, sometimes chip away at ice, then either replace part of the pipe or use a repair sleeve that covers and seals the break.

"Generally when we have a crew onsite it can be repaired and back in service between four to six hours," said Megan Murphy, with the utilities department.

The cost of repair is adding up. Miller said money isn't the problem, but the toll on manpower.

"We can scrape together enough men for three crews and we've had to do that several times. But, we do have other things to do that we're trying to keep up with, too," said Miller.

Miller said if they can't keep up, contractors have been called and are on standby to help out.

City officials said if the public sees water in the streets, and it looks like a water main break, dial (319) 286-5900.