Cold brings danger of frozen pipes

ESCANABA — With frigid temperatures being experienced lately, Escanaba residents are being advised of precautionary steps they can take now to help prevent their water and sewer pipes from freezing up this winter.

Only about a half dozen frozen pipes have been reported in Escanaba so far this winter, mainly due to homeowner issues, according to Jeff Lampi, the city’s water and wastewater superintendent.

These frozen pipes were caused by open windows, lack of insulation, heat tapes not being turned on, or heater vents not being opened in basements, he said.

“Our plans are to not let pipes freeze up and to attack the problem spots for homeowners right away,” explained Lampi.

“I like to be prepared,” he added. “Right now, it’s routine business. There are no problems, no issues. But if the frost goes deeper, we’ll be prepared.”

The frost line is currently at about 30 inches, which Lampi described as “getting close to being a concern.”

Lampi said he always worries about the potential for frozen water and sewer pipes during the winter, especially after experiencing the “2014-2015 deep freeze.”

That winter, more than 500 freeze ups occurred and Escanaba was forced to authorize water “let runs” for more than 900 customers to prevent additional or repeat freeze ups. Some sewer lines also froze.

During the 2015-2016 winter, officials authorized “let runs” for more than 100 customers during extreme cold weather. Last winter there were no major issues.

The city doesn’t want to experience any widespread problems again and has been prepared for preventing similar emergencies, said Lampi, noting discussions have already taken place on a plan of action for this winter.

Employees continue to keep an eye on the handful of residences which are prone to freeze up each season, he said, adding these customers will be taken care of individually as problems arise.

If frozen pipes become a bigger issue in the city, employees will immediately call or go door-to-door to advise homeowners to take proactive steps — such as “let runs” — to prevent freeze ups, he said.

“Right now, with the the frost not being very deep, homeowners are advised to protect any exposed pipes and crawl spaces, use heat tape, and open heater vents to basements, said Lampi.

Additional tips to keep water pipes from freezing during the winter are as follows:

– Check basements and crawl spaces for drafts.

– Check plumbing near a vent or window.

– Turn on or install heat tape on plumbing which is exposed to the cold.

– Disconnect garden hoses from outside facets.

– Avoid parking or driving over incoming water lines.

– Keep an eye out for rusty water, which is a sign of a pipe freezing.

– A line may be subject to freezing if water reaches a temperature below 34 degrees.

– Pile snow over the water service line and sewer lateral to provide more insulation from the cold.

Lampi offers additional tips to prevent sewer line freeze ups:

– Use more water to flush solids to the main.

– Do not flush sanitary wipes into the sewer because they may slow the flow and plug the line.

– Grease can solidify quickly in a cold line and create a plug.

– Clear the sewer vent to allow the sewer to breathe and flow.

Lampi’s last words of advice are to check on a neighbor who may need a helping hand.

Lampi said it is unknown if weather was the cause of a water main break that is scheduled to be repaired today on the 2200 block of 12th Avenue South. Crews won’t know the cause until they fix the line, which underwent repairs this summer, he said.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,