Winter takes its toll on water lines

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 31, 2003

A cold winter is causing just as many problems for the water lines underground as it has for drivers.

The city's public services employees have been working nearly around the clock to keep up with the numerous breaks in Ironton's water lines.

"We have had one break about every day for the last three weeks," John McCabe, public services director, said. "They have been all over the city--out on State Route 141, in the north end of town and the south end."

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Working so many long shifts has stretched the department thin and the days have started to run together, he said.

"We have five guys trying to take care of 5,000 customers," he said. "These guys are doing an excellent job, especially considering the hours and conditions they have been working in."

One morning it was 4 degrees outside and almost felt warmer in the 32-degree water, McCabe said.

Short of replacing the entire system, which would be astronomically expensive, there is really not much the city can do other than fix the problems as they occur, he said.

Only about five homes along Spruce Street have gone without water in the three-week span and it was only overnight. The worst was a week or so ago, McCabe said.

So many lines burst that it was a couple of days before they could get to all of them, but because it was main lines instead of the service lines none of these customers were without water.

"This is really a common problem for all of the northeastern United States," he said.

Although the city has little choice, making the repairs is an expensive proposition. Repairing a single break can cost between $1,000 and $1,700 including manpower and materials, he said.

Many of the pipes that have burst are 6-inch main lines that are very old. If the line cracks length wise, they will replace up to a 20-foot section. If the crack is horizontal, they put a repair clamp on the line.

"The weather has been extremely cold," McCabe said. "I expect more lines to burst when it warms up because of expansion and contraction in the ground and the lines."