Frost levels are below six feet in much of central Minnesota, and several cities are facing frozen water mains and sewer lines.
The City of Eden Valley held an emergency meeting Tuesday evening, Feb. 18, about the issue. Let the city know you are running your water (see instructions below), to keep your line from freezing, and your water bill may be adjusted to what you would normally use.
The City of Watkins will deal with freezes and water usage on a case-by-case basis. The City of Kimball, as of Feb. 18, plans to charge for all water used.
In general, if you have problems, call the city offices. Eden Valley is 453-5251; Kimball is 398-2725; South Haven is 236-2424; and Watkins is 764-6400. As a rule, the line from the water main to a home is the homeowner’s responsibility.
Here are some general suggestions that may help ease the situation until the spring thaw.
• The most likely spot for a water line to freeze is where it enters the building.
• Clear the area where the pipe enter the building so that warmer room air can reach it; furniture or storage boxes will insulate the pipe and keep it cold (which you don’t want).
• Use heat tape on the pipe where it comes into the building.
• Use a warm hair dryer to warm up the pipe (nothing hotter). Even a room fan to push room air toward the pipe will help.
• Test the temperature of your cold tap water after letting it run until it’s cold. Try to use the tap nearest where the pipe enters your building. The cold water should be about 45 degrees; if the temperature drops below 40 degrees, frost may be dangerously close to your water line, and it could freeze soon.
• If your cold water temperature falls below 40 degrees, you can help prevent a freeze-up by letting a stream of water run from one cold faucet. The stream should be about the thickness of a pencil. (You may want to check that your sewer line is draining well before you leave your home with the tap running.)
• If you live in another town with city water, please let your city office know if you’ve decided to run your your tap to prevent a freeze. They may still charge you for all water used, but that could change at any time. Again, Kimball is 398-2725, Watkins is 764-6400, and South Haven is 236-2424.
• The risk of frozen service lines could continue for several weeks to several months.
• Make sure the roof vent is not covered with snow or otherwise blocked. Snow build-up over the vent will cause the sewer drain to slow down. This prevents warmer air in the sewer system from venting up the house line to keep its temperature above freezing.
• If your home thermostat runs on a battery, make sure that it has a fresh battery. Don’t let the temperature in your home or business get so low that the pipes can freeze more easily.
• If your water pressure drops, your water temperature changes, or there is discoloration in the water, this may mean that your service line is freezing.
• If you have had a frozen line in the past, or if someone in your neighborhood has a frozen service line, the best prevention is to let the water run.
• There are contractors in the area that have the proper equipment to safely thaw water and sewer lines. Call your city office for a list of contractors. Your plumber may also have a list of those contractors who can do this. Chances are, they’ll be busy for awhile.
Frozen water lines can burst and cause a much worse problem than just not having water. And in most cases, the water line from the main (often in the middle of the street) into your house is your responsibility, not the city’s.
This is a case where an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. A few extra dollars on your water bill is much less of a problem than paying to replace broken water pipes and cleaning up the damage.
If you have any questions about your water service and the possibility of it freezing, please call your city office. They are preparing to answer your questions, and to give you helpful suggestions. Keep in mind that we’re all in this miserable winter together, and together we’ll all make it out.