Some Towns Asking Water Customers to Keep the Lines Flowing

By Dave Franzman, Reporter


By Dave Franzman

SPRINGVILLE, Iowa- A number of smaller communities in eastern Iowa are making an unusual request to water customers during this bitterly cold weather. They’re asking customers to use a thermometer on the water coming into their home. And if the temperature is below 38 degrees, they’re recommending residents let the water run at a fast trickle to keep the supply lines from the street into the home from freezing up.

Todd Wyman, public works manager in Springville, said the city started putting out those requests in flyers posted around town and on notices placed on the local cable TV access channel last Friday. The reason is at least two homes in Springville have had water lines completely freeze up.

Wyman said water lines into homes are at least 42 inches below ground. And that’s usually enough to stay below the frost line. But this winter is especially cold and the frost is reaching deeper than ever and causing problems with the water pipes running underground.

Wyman said the city had to bypass frozen lines in a couple of homes with an unusual temporary solution. Workers hooked up a garden hose to a neighboring building where the water is still running and then covered it with lots of insulation and ran it to the homes that have frozen pipe problems. So far it’s working, but Wyman said the city needs help from other homeowners to avoid more freezing problems in more homes.

“Iowa made the standard 42 inches (depth) and we’ve just gone by that with the frost we have this year. Our town, on the rare occasion we have two or three homes to watch carefully when it gets cold. But we’re finding the problem in places we’ve never had it before,” Wyman said.

Wyman estimates perhaps as few as 10 residents have taken the city’s advice and are keeping at least one faucet on at a fast trickle. He said some may worry about running up water bills. But he’s planning to average bills for those residents who want to help the city out by keeping the faucets running. That way, will pay what they have in the past and they won’t get hit with a sudden spike this one month.

In nearby Central City, frozen pipes are also a problem. And the fast trickle advice is also endorsed there as well. But Al Burkle, public works manager, isn’t resorting to a temporary hose bypass to keep water flowing.

Rather, the city is helping out local plumbers as they try to thaw out the frozen lines. Over the weekend, a handful of homes had water come to a complete halt. Plumbers are inserting hoses into the water line and then pumping hot water from basement water heaters into the system in an effort to thaw it out. Burkle said the method works, but it takes time.

In one case, it was only half an hour. But in another, the plumber had to keep at it for 16 hours before it was successful.

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