Monday, March 3, 2014

Sanitary sewers and frozen water lines...What goes around comes around.

From Waterloo to Kalamazoo and back communities across several states continue to battle the issue of frozen water lines.  the loss control department at LMCIT is using this blogspot to disseminate information as it develops or becomes available.  A recent article in The Litchfield Independent Review, City workers battling frozen pipes caught my attention.

I called Litchfield City Administrator Dave Cziok to follow up on the article that suggested residents try running a tub of hot water through the pipes once a day or running the hot water for about 5 minutes a day.

According to Dave, the city came to this idea organically.  When frozen water lines first started to be an issue he called a meeting and decided to approach this issue from both the sewer and water side, vs. only the water side.  Here's what helped the city come to that decision:
  • The financial burden of continuously running water
  • The extra processing on the wastewater treatment plant side
  • The city heard from people that ran water in a pencil thin stream (as advised by plumbers and other sources) and now the residents have a sewer back-up issue
  • The city didn't want to create liability for themselves on the sewer back-up side due to the advice the city gave to continuously run the cold water

Running the hot water has not worked in all situations and in fact the city is finding a variety of scenarios as to what is causing the freeze-ups/back-ups.  The city is dispatching public works employees to assess specific situations and they in turn make a determination of what the best approach would be to thaw the lines.  Dave Cziok  is willing to answer calls from other cities if staff would like to discuss more detail with him.

 LMCIT's litigation attorney, Jack Hennen had these comments:

"I was worried that the cold water trickle method to prevent water lines from freezing would cause ice accumulation in shallow sanitary sewer service lines.  With a slow trickle of very cold water an icicle can form inside the sanitary sewer service line."

"When a lot of hot water is put down the line it heats up and cleans out the line and then the vented line dries out until the next discharge--this can deter ice formation in the sewer service lateral.  Public Works staffs' familiarity with the area, the depth of the basement (full basement or half basement with walkout), and "as builts" showing the depth of both the sanitary sewer line and the water lines should allow City Employees to give better guidance to homeowners on a case by case basis."

"I do think that such advice should always be characterized in terms of a "tip" or suggestion--i.e.'you might like to try--but we cannot make any kind of guarantee that this will work.'  Suggestions are only suggestions--ultimately the homeowners should rely on their own good judgement or on what a plumber they hire tells them."

by Cheryl Brennan

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