By Jesse Wood
Feb. 19, 2015. With subzero temperatures and offices, businesses and other establishments closed on Thursday, Public Works Director Rick Miller said his department is concerned about the frozen-pipe calls that could come in the morning.
“Our worry is with everything closed today, we’re going to get all the calls tomorrow,” Miller said.
During this recent cold snap, Miller said that two staff members have been working every night this week to respond to any such calls as quickly as possible. Since 10 a.m. this morning, Miller said that he’s received about six or seven frozen-pipe calls. He didn’t have the figures handy from the previous days.
Even though the Public Works Department, which now features the town’s Public Utilities Department after the consolidation of the two departments in recent months, urges water users to conserve water where possible, Miller said people are better off to run the water at night as opposed to ending up with frozen pipes.
“No. Mine is running at the house right now,” Miller said. “We definitely want people to conserve where they can, but in this situation you are better off to let it run than have the pipes freeze and burst.”
Miller estimated that a 1/16-inch stream of water at 60 psi uses about 1.14 gallons of water in an hour. If a three-quarter pipe were to burst and staff responded within an optimistic timeframe of 10 minutes, Miller said at least several gallons would be lost.
Frozen pipes fall under “unusual fact” in the way that the town water code is written, and water customer’s can apply for a waiver request to avoid paying fees associated with the water leak. The town manager has authority to grant the waiver up to $3,000. If a request is for an amount above that figure, then the matter goes before town council.
While it’s generally too late to prevent frozen pipes when the temperature is fluctuating around zero degrees, Miller said the air causes lines to freeze and one of the best prevention methods is to provide “good insulation” around pipes that are exposed.
The best option, however, is to bury those pipes about three feet into the ground. That, though, isn’t an option if the infrastructure is already in place.