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UPDATE: Despite warmer weather, some municipalities still warn about freezing pipes

By: Max Hess - Email
By: Max Hess - Email
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UPDATED Wednesday, March 12, 2014 --- 10:10 p.m.

Looking outside recently reveals melting snow and plenty of sunshine -- but don't let warmer temperatures fool you.

After one of the coldest winters in a long time, the could ground will remain frozen for months.

That's why some communities say keeping your water running is still important.

"It's been an unusually cold winter," said Deane Baker, the Director of Public Works in DeForest.

DeForest is one of the Wisconsin municipalities that has enforced a policy specifically asking residents to keep water running out a sink in their home.

This prevents "laterals" from freezing, which are the pipes that connect homes to the main water service.

Fixing those pipes can be extremely expensive, according to Baker.

Baker says that usually the frost wouldn't be completely down to the laterals, but this winter was so cold that it is.

"It's important to keep that little bit of water running from one faucet in the house," Baker explained.

The Village of DeForest recently sent residents a letter explaining that they are extending the policy past the previously posted deadline of March 15.

DeForest isn't alone. Places all over the state are asking residents to continue running water, including Cottage Grove, Milton, Sauk City, Prairie du Sac, Dodgeville and Montello.

Some utility companies will extend previously set dates, and others will ask residents to simply continue running water until the utility company says it's safe enough to turn it off.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with enjoying warmer temperatures -- keep in mind -- broken pipes are expensive, and a little bit of water can save a big chunk of cash.

Running your water is not ideal for all municipalities.

The City of Madison Water Utility, for example, is only contacting residents in "high risk areas" and asking them to run their water.

Contact your local water utility company for the regulation or suggestion that applies to your home.

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UPDATED Friday, March 7, 2014 --- 6:05 p.m.

Despite recent warmer weather, many Wisconsin municipalities are still asking their residents to keep water flowing in a sink to prevent pipes from freezing.

The cold weather of the last few months has caused the ground to freeze, and it could take several weeks for it to thaw, even with rising temperatures.

Some of the municipalities in the Madison area include DeForest, Cottage Grove, Milton, Sauk City, Prairie du Sac, Dodgeville and Montello.

Each of those municipalities will reimburse their customers for the extra water -- some with set amounts, others with yearly or monthly averages.

"A lot of the services that go to the people's house and surrounded by potentially frozen soil," said Deane Baker, Director of the DeForest Public Works.

He says having the steady flow of water is the only way to prevent the pipes from freezing.

"Just one sink in the house is going to do it for us," he explained.

DeForest Public Works will be reimbursing their customers with a set credit amount at the end of the freezing risk period.

They're calculating it at about 96 gallons per day, which comes down to about 50 cents.

Baker added that they do not have the staff to check if everybody is actually running water, so technically, people could receive credit even if they weren't doing anything to prevent frozen pipes.

But that, according to Baker, is very risky.

"Now that everybody's been warned, it's not our obligation to come thaw your pipe for free, either," he warned.

Fixing frozen pipes in DeForest costs about $100.

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UPDATED Monday, February 17, 2014 --- 11:25 am

More communities are asking residents to run water to prevent freezing pipes.

--The Villages of Prairie du Sac and Sauk City Utilities are now mandating all water utility customers to run a continuous pencil sized stream of cold water from a faucet in their home or business until further notice. For more information, click HERE.

--Effective immediately, all customers of the DeForest Water Utility are asked to run a stream of cold water from any one faucet in the house. All customers will receive a credit to their water bills. For more information, click HERE.

--The City of Dodgeville is requiring residents to let their water run continuously.

--The City of Montello wants residents to run their water at a pencil stream. Officials say residents' bills will be adjusted.

--Cottage Grove Water Utility customers are being asked to run their water full flow from a cold water faucet for five minutes, for five or six times per day.

--On Tuesday, Feb. 12th, 2014 the City of Milton Water Utility recommended residents run a small, pencil sized stream of water in their homes to prevent frozen laterals (pipes) to their homes. That recommendation remains in effect through at least next Friday, Feb. 21st.

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Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 --- 5:45 p.m.

The City of Madison is the latest to hit new records with frozen pipes and cracked meters. The cold is taking its toll, leaving many without water and empty pockets from repair costs. And officials say the damage is far from over.

It's been a record breaking year for broken pipes in Madison. "This is probably the worst winter we've seen in 20 or 30 years," said Amy Barrilleaux from Madison Water Utility. The biggest problem: frozen laterals, the piece connecting the city's pipes to people's homes.

"Where we normally would have zero or just a handful of frozen laterals in Madison, we've had more than 80 this year," Barrilleaux explains.
44 just in the last two days; and that's exactly what's to blame for the dry faucets at GT Mobility in the City of Monona. Mike Botts, Sales Manager shows us, "the toilets not going to work, none of the water works." Putting a damper on the business and its customers. "Most of our customers are in wheelchairs, they also need to go to the restroom. It's affected us that way. Also, we can't wash any of our cars," said Botts.

Crews are out working Tuesday, trying to get the water back on; and cases just like this are so prevalent, the City of Madison has had to activate all of its main break crews, even adding an extra crew to deal solely with frozen laterals. "Normally we have just one small crew that deals with that number of cases that we deal with every year. Now we have extra equipment and an extra crew to go around and start unfreezing these laterals," said Barrilleaux. Hopefully bringing some relief to those who need it most. She adds, "people with frozen laterals can't get any water, and that's a bad situation."

We've reported that some communities are asking residents to run a small stream of water continuously to keep pipes from freezing. The City of Madison is not making that request; it would cost too much in water and money. It would be around 13 million gallons in extra water usage each day and around $88,000. Crews are going door to door to the most vulnerable areas to warn people.

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Posted: Monday, February 10, 2014 --- 5:00 p.m.

Running water in your home for 24 hours a day may seem like a waste, but officials in some areas in Dane County are asking their residents to do just that. And one village is working hard to cut down all the frozen water pipe damage.

"We've had problems with freezing in the past, but we've never had problems to this extent. I've been working here for 32 years," said Susan Dietzen.

Susan Dietzen, the Clerk and Treasurer for the Village of Mazomanie is busy stuffing envelopes and mailing out alerts to all 1,686 residents, in an effort to prevent water freeze-ups. "In most cases it's the homeowners part of the pipe that is freezing, or freezing underneath their homes," she said.

So they're asking residents to run a water stream about the size of a pencil for all hours of the day, seven days a week. A drastic step to combat an unprecedented problem. "Now we're having people freeze that have never had problems in the past," Dietzen adds.

And the precaution will stretch well into the future; they're asking residents to keep the water on continuously until the end of March; even if it warms up. "If the frost isn't out of the ground if it gets warm, the frost actually goes deeper when the weather gets nice," she explained.

Officials with Mazomanie say just in the past week they've seen 13 new cases of pipes freezing. Residents will not be charged for the extra water. The utility billing system is able to estimate their current usage and keep their monthly bill at that amount. No word yet on how much this will cost the Village; and Mazomanie isn't alone, the City of Monona is also asking you to keep the water flowing until further notice.


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