Frozen water lines becoming problem in Deer Lake

Chris Quigley
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Deer Lake public works superintendent Dave Thomas, back, speaks during the town council meeting on Monday night. Also pictured is meeting attendee Myra Spence.

Now in his sixth winter as Deer Lake town superintendent, Dave Thomas has never seen so many issues with frozen water lines as he has this year.

As of 6 p.m. Monday evening, there were 26 frozen water lines in the town caused by frost, he said at the town’s council meeting.

On Friday, a manhole cover on Wight’s Road was lifted and Thomas said the frost line was more than six feet deep.

“Roads are particularly bad because you clear them and then traffic drives over them and drives the frost down further,” he said. “Then when you see water running, that’s even worse again because warm weather drives frost down even further again.”

Water lines are typically put down between five and six feet deep, which is sufficient in “ordinary circumstances,” Thomas said, noting a normal winter frost goes down only three or four feet.

It’s not just Deer Lake having issues, as Thomas said he was told there are approximately 40-50 homes in Corner Brook with frozen water lines, including a full street with 10 homes where the main line is frozen solid.

Thomas even contacted a company that makes pipe-thawing equipment, but the machines are being scooped off the assembly line by American states Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan as soon as they are completed.

“If I ordered today, I wouldn’t get one until May 8,” he said.

The town has been providing hoses for affected buildings, which they attach to a neighbouring building to form a temporary water line. People pay their water and sewer taxes, he said, so the town is obligated to do this.

“The three building supply stores in town are pretty much out of hoses,” he said.

Once the hose is hooked up by the town, the resident is responsible for it and must keep the water running to prevent the hose from freezing.

“Some people don’t like that,” Thomas said. “But if we go around and actually have to unhook everyone’s frozen hose, we’ll never get anything done. We’ll never get the next guy hooked up.”

Water consumption has risen during the winter by roughly 150-200 gallons per minute, Thomas said, including a rate of 750 gallons per minute on Friday. It’s still well within the town’s comfort zone, however.

“One machine is good for 1,500 gallons per minute and we have two machines,” he said.

Of greater issue is the time being spent hooking up these hoses to so many buildings. Thomas estimated the installation takes about an hour in a best-case situation of the two houses being side by side, about 50 feet apart.

“Some of the ones we’ve been running now are 300-400 feet long,” he said. “So it takes a bit of time.”

Other issues can make the process even more time-consuming, such as the water taps outside the buildings not being cleared of snow or, in one particular case, a homeowner wanting no part in helping out their next-door neighbour.

“There was an ongoing dispute between neighbours,” Thomas said. “We left it and went to the next neighbour.”

Geographic location: Deer Lake, Corner Brook, Wisconsin Illinois Michigan

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