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Mandy Cawby

913 - 895 - 5546

mcawby@waterone.org

New Year’s Eve Cold Weather Causes Surge in Service Calls, Main Breaks

Post Date:01/03/2018

A deep winter freeze created a busy start to the new year for many WaterOne work teams. Prolonged single digit and sub-zero temperatures wreaked havoc on infrastructure and plumbing throughout the service area.

Based on forecasts, Customer Relations and field crews proactively asked for volunteers to work over the holiday weekend for Meter Services, Dispatch, and main breaks. The precaution turned out to be a smart move, with Dispatch taking over 200 emergency calls between Sunday the 31st and Tuesday the 2nd.

"There were tons of ‘No Water’ and ‘Burst Pipe’ calls," said Dispatcher Kim Brooks. "Unfortunately, many of these incidents could have been avoided with homeowner precautions.”

Some tips for preventing frozen pipes include:

  • Knowing the location of your water shut-off valve
  • Turning off sprinkler systems before the first freeze
  • Winterizing vacant buildings
  • Insulating vulnerable pipes
  • Leaving cabinet doors open that contain pipes near exterior walls
  • Leaving a slow drip from a faucet – moving water is less likely to freeze

If a customer's pipes freeze in their home or business, it's ultimately their responsibility to fix. However, temperatures were so low that a few meters froze up in the meter pit. WaterOne Meter Services had eight people work a 10-12 hour day on Monday, New Years Day.

"It's very rare to have a meter freeze, but when it gets that cold, it can happen if the lid happens to be ajar," said Mike Yager, Meter Repair Foreman.

The cold weather caused plenty of main breaks as well. WaterOne has already repaired 33 main breaks in the first ten days of 2018. To put that in perspective, WaterOne only repaired 45 breaks for the entire month of January in the previous year.

"In addition to the cold, it had been extremely dry. Clay soil tends to move around quite a bit if it doesn't have moisture in it," said CMVS Manager Greg Johnson. "We actually had several service lines freeze, which is pretty rare. It tends to happen in areas where the line isn't as deep, or if it has to cross over a storm sewer. Storm sewer lines are open on the curb and trap frigid air. The storm sewer basically acts like a big cooling tube for the service line."

Cold weather repairs present their own set of challenges.

"The repair is the same, but even a small leak can create a lot of ice and make it difficult to work," said Greg. "If we're draining out into a ditch, we have to be very conscious of where that water is going. We make sure to call in salt trucks to make the area safer to work, and safer for the traveling public."

To report a main break or request an emergency water shutoff at your home or business, call WaterOne Dispatch at (913) 895-1800 for 24-hour emergency service. For more cold weather tips to prevent damage to your plumbing, visit waterone.org/NoFrozenPipes.

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Fast Fact

WaterOne is an independent, non-profit water utility, proudly serving 400,000+ customers in the Johnson County area.