Warmer Temperatures Not Enough to Solve Frozen Pipe Problems

by Jill Kasparie, Reporter

OELWEIN, Iowa - Despite warmer temperatures, many people in Eastern Iowa are still dealing with frozen pipes.

For weeks, city crews in Oelwein have been working to thaw pipes, but some people are still living without water.

To make matters worse, it doesn't appear they'll thaw in coming days.

"It's a pain, big time," said Kim Kisner.

Since February 12, Kisner has been without water. She's filling several water jugs a day, hoping Mother Nature or the city will eventually solve the problem.

"Twice they've been here with the welder -- four hours the first time, three hours the second time, nothing. It's froze at the main," Kisner said.

The city said16 people are currently living without water. Many of those are because of frozen water mains.

Crews have been working on the issue since the beginning of February.

"We've had about 53 homes that have frozen up. We have experienced 18 water main breaks in that time frame," said Oelwein Utilities Superintendent Victor Kane.

If you think the warmer temperatures are helping, think again. With the frost so deep in the ground, Kane said it'll be at least another couple of weeks of warm temperatures before the city sees some relief.

"I have had a lot of people call me and say it's a beautiful day, do I have to keep running my water. Yes. We actually had two freeze-ups just Yesterday (Tuesday). The outside temp has nothing to do with it. The ground is basically a big block of ice," Kane said.

The city, however, isn't giving up on getting everybody's water flowing again.

"It's kind of a new experience for us to see how it works and what it'll do," Kane said.

Crews hope to get water to six homes living by a frozen water main. They have rigged up a warming blanket of sorts. Equipment is heating liquid that's flowing through hoses on the ground above the water main, and tarps are on top of those hoses to keep the heat in. Kane said local contractors typically use the machine when they're doing cement work.

"So, it's pulling all the frost up out of the ground, then," Kane said.

Crews are going to keep working to solve the problem and keep hoping Mother Nature will soon provide enough of a long-term warm up that the frozen pipes will no longer cause headaches for residents and utility crews.

As for Kisner, she's anxiously checking her faucet looking forward to the day she'll have water once again.

"Inside plumbing -- definitely a necessity," Kisner said.

City leaders are also bracing for other problems out of this. Officials said the water man breaks could cost them an unplanned $150,000.

They will also have to deal with expensive water bills, as people run water to avoid frozen pipes. The city said it is still working out the details of how to handle that billing.

Kane said residents do still need to run a pencil-sized stream of water if the temperature of the water is coming out of the faucet at 40 degrees or cooler.
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