No water line freeze up reports in town just yet

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

The Town of Fort Frances has not received any reports of waterline freeze ups this winter, but Operations and Facilities manager Travis Rob said it is too early to speculate how the rest of the season will act.

Rob said on average, the town receives about 12 reports of frozen water lines per winter. This is an average that has not seen much change since 2014, he added.

“2014 was a very different year due to the fact that we had far, far more than that. Just due to the prolonged extreme cold that we had. In terms of our records, that was the most that we had ever received.”

When the town receives reports of frozen water lines, a DBH machine is used. It is a machine that is designed and built to thaw frozen water services, Rob said.

The machine is then hooked on to the water service and a current is induced through it, Rob said. This current thaws the water line. He then advises residents to make sure that they leave their water running.

“The DBH machine will thaw the service out. However, the ground around the service is still very, very cold,” Rob said. “If you were to then turn the water off, that line will freeze up almost instantaneously if that water stops flowing.”

A pulse de-icer is another machine the town uses for unique situations because it requires them to actually open up the service and run a cable down into the service, Rob added.

“The pulse de-icer basically then just circulates hot water into the service to thaw out the service. The problem with it being is that when the service thaws out, it’s now flowing water and it’s open at the end,” Rob said. “And so it typically makes a huge mess.”

Time taken to thaw water services depends on each house, and Rob said sometimes it can take them half an hour just to get a good enough connection in the service to induce that charge.

The age of the home does not necessarily play a factor in water line freeze ups. Rob said a lot of the reports they receive are people with crawl spaces that have some sort of heater down in their crawlspace to keep it above freezing and something happens to the heater or they are not checking on regularly and the pipes in the crawlspace freeze.

“Second to that is a lot of times when people’s water services run under their driveways, they don’t have a layer of snow to act as insulation. We do have a number of properties in town that we call our frequent fliers, they just freeze all the time, usually once a year.”

Rob said frozen water lines usually affect only one household as 99 per cent of the town’s water services are specific to each resident.

Compared to last year there is more snow accumulation to act as an insulating barrier, Rob added.

Rob also said because it was so dry this summer he is interested to see if that impacts how quickly or how deep the frost gets just because of how dry the ground is.

“People that have a recurring history of frozen waters should start thinking about running a tap,” Rob said. “It doesn’t take a lot of moving water to keep it from freezing just like a stream the thickness of a pencil.”