Calgarians can expect long waits for frozen, broken water main repairs

Click to play video: 'City of Calgary warns of possibility of more frozen pipe problems'
City of Calgary warns of possibility of more frozen pipe problems
WATCH: More than 200 homes across Calgary are without water due to burst pipes and water main brakes. As Lauren Pullen reports, the city says it's going to get worse before it gets better – Mar 7, 2019

Due to what the city calls “unusual and extreme” winter weather, city officials have been called to dozens of water main breaks across Calgary since the start of the month.

Between March 1 and March 7, officials received more than 80 water-related service calls, the city said in a release on Thursday. That’s a huge jump from all of 2018, where the city said it only received 10 calls in total.

Despite crews working extended hours to try to get water flowing back to residents’ homes, the city is warning that there could be significant delays in restoring service.

According to the city, the frost level in the city is at about eight feet, or 2.4 metres, leading to more outages and presenting more of a challenge for trying to find and assess breaks in pipes.

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In addition, the volume of broken pipes has led to a backlog of calls for repair. While the city aims to have broken pipes repaired within a week, officials said that timeline is “highly variable due to the nature of the work.”

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“Once crews are on site, the time to thaw can range anywhere from two hours to upwards of 12 hours,” the city’s manager of drinking water distribution, Chris Huston, said. “We are not always successful on the first try.”

The city is providing water wagons to water main break incidents; it can’t offer water wagons to individual homes dealing with frozen pipes.

Businesses or residents who have frozen pipes and alert the city are provided with a care package that includes portable and non-portable water and passes for recreation centres so they can use showers.

900 letters sent to residents

As part of its frozen pipes prevention program, the city said it’s sent about 900 letters to residents and businesses that are at risk of having their water services freeze.

The city said officials will be calling the remaining 390 customers on the list and will follow up with letters.

Those who have experienced frozen pipes in the past are encouraged to keep a small stream of water running in their home to avoid freezing. Officials also recommend programming a dishwasher to run while residents aren’t at home and insulating pipes and the areas containing pipes.

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What should you look for?

Not sure if your pipes are frozen? The city said to look for the following signs that your water supply might be frozen:

  • No or very little water running from the faucet — check all faucets in the home
  • Frost on internal pipes, i.e., shut-off valve or internal pipes
  • Flooding

What should you do if you have frozen pipes?

Frozen pipes can be alarming and need to be addressed as quickly as possible. The city gave the following tips for taking action if your pipes freeze:

  • If your house or basement is flooding, turn off the main shut-off valve and call 311
  • If you believe your pipes have frozen, turn off your water at the main shut-off valve and call a plumber

More information on water main breaks and water outages can be found on the City of Calgary website.

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