What to do in the event of frozen water  lines and what resources you may expect from the Village of Lawrence DPW.

During a period of cold temperatures, the ground frost may start to have an effect on both public and private water and sewer lines.  As the weather warms during the end of the winter season it can drive the frost level deeper, thus increasing the risk of frozen water lines.

Our public works staff is dedicated at their best ability to maintain these services from freezing. The Council, having an obligation to maintain the water and sewer system infrastructure as a whole, fully understands the severity of hardships that are incurred by our residents when water and sewer service are interrupted at a residents home.

Based on the severe cold temperatures we experienced in January & February 2014, it become apparent the Village did not have the resources necessary to repair interruptions of this nature in a timely manner. Initial water service interruptions were dealt with utilizing equipment, procedures and personnel already in place within the Village, or in some cases borrowing equipment from surrounding municipalities.  In an effort to be proactive, it was decided during that time that we asked residents to begin running water (Run Water Notice) in an effort to reduce the possibility of further resident lines from freezing.

The Lawrence Public Services Department will always assess the frozen ground conditions as the winter progresses. If ground freeze conditions worsen to where frozen lines are occurring, or are at severe risk of freezing, then a Run Water Notice will be posted with the appropriate instructions.

Our public works staff will always utilize all their efforts to restore water and sewer services as quickly as possible given the resources at our disposal while keeping the integrity of the system as a whole paramount in their decision process.

Questions/Answers ABOUT FROZEN LINES:

  1. Q) How can I tell my water line is about to freeze? A) Prior to a line freezing, you may see a decrease in your water flow rate and in some cases some rust in the water
  2. Q) Where does the freezing occur? A) The likely location of a frozen water service is typically near your water meter, commonly located in a meter pit. Removing the insulating layer of snow over these pits can increase the chance of the water line to freeze.  Note: Disassembling the pipes at or near meters and shutoffs can pose a risk to allow a method for any number of contaminants to enter the system. Introducing anything foreign into the public water supply is extremely dangerous to the entire Village water system.
  3. Q) If my line is frozen, can I run a hose from my neighbor? A) By connecting a garden hose from an obliging neighbor, temporary service can be achieved. An RV type hose suitable for drinking water, rather than a common garden hose, is recommended.  This has met with limited success due to the fact that the hose and any leaks tend to freeze rapidly being exposed to the environment.  Many outside frost free hose connections have a built in backflow valve which will not allow water to flow backwards into the affected home. The Village does not currently sanction this method.

4 . Q.) Why the Village does not use an electric method such as a welder to thaw pipes?  A)  In order to ensure safety and reduce the possibility of damaging electrical equipment and or appliances that may be in the home, a number of wiring modifications within the home must be completed before this method is attempted. If not performed correctly the risk of fire is a real concern. The Village of Lawrence does not possess the manpower, equipment or expertise necessary for this type of operation.

5. Q.) Can the Village inject hot water in the frozen line to thaw it?   A) There is a method which involves disassembly of the existing plumbing system to insert a small diameter flexible tube containing hot water under pressure.  The tube is forced into the water system at or near the point where it is frozen.  As hot water exits the tube it melts the ice. This method does not work well when attempting to force the tube through various pipe bends, elbows, or unions.  These types of fittings are very prevalent in the meter pits throughout Lawrence. The Village of Lawrence does not possess the manpower, equipment or expertise necessary for this type of operation.

IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCE NO WATER SERVICE:

The Village of Lawrence Department of Public Works reminds residents of important steps to take in the event they have no water service due to a frozen water pipe.  Before calling the Village, residents should determine:

  • If just a specific faucet is not functioning
  • If the whole house is without water

The most common places for water to freeze are areas where water pipes are closest to outside exterior walls. This could be where the water service enters the building, or where water pipes connect to sinks adjacent to exterior walls.

If the problem is at a specific sink/faucet, the city will not send out a water division representative. Residents should do the following:

  • Before trying to thaw the frozen pipe, the property owner should locate the water shut-off valve(s) upstream of where the frozen pipe is located. Water expands as it turns to ice, and this could cause the water pipe to break or split.  While the water is frozen, it won’t leak, but as the ice thaws, a water leak could develop.
  • The property owner should close the water valve to stop the flow of water and call a plumber to repair the water pipe.
  • Place a bucket under the leak to capture any water that may leak.
  • If the frozen pipe is near a specific faucet, the property owner will want to confirm where the closest shut-off valve is located. (This might be near the faucet or it could be near the water meter.)
  • NEVER use a blowtorch or any type of open flame device to thaw a water pipe.
  • It is suggested that residents should apply heat to the frozen pipe. A towel soaked in hot water wrapped around the pipe is one method.  If there is no standing water, the property owner could use a heating pad or a hair dryer to try to thaw the pipe.  Again, if the water starts to leak, close the water supply valve and contact a plumber.

 If the whole house is without water, the likely location of the frozen pipe is near the area where the water pipe enters the home, typically located by the water meter.  The homeowner may want to request a Utilities Department employee to shut off the water outside the home prior to thawing the pipe.  Frequently, if this is the location of the frozen pipe, the freeze plate of the water meter will break.  If this happens, department personnel (at their discretion) will need to remove the meter to install a spread pipe, and or replace the meter at a later date.

If it is determined the freeze is in a “water main” versus the water line from the water main to the house or business, the Village DPW will take the necessary steps to make the repair.

Thank you for helping us protect the integrity of our water system for the residents of the entire Village.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our DPW Department.

Policy of the Village of Lawrence regarding the issues of frozen water pipes

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