City of Antigo working to avoid more water line freezing woes|
|City of Antigo officials are counting the days—and the temperatures—until spring.|
And they are asking residents for help.
The region’s deep chill has driven the frost deep into the ground beneath streets, sidewalks and other surfaces, causing hundreds of freeze-ups and concerns over broken water mains and, in at least one instance, a sanitary sewer main.
“We’ve had quite a few freeze-ups, but so far we’re keeping up with them,” Street Commissioner Bob Piskula said. “We’re hoping the weather breaks a bit.”
Most city water lines are buried seven feet, adequate in all but the most severe winters. But the bitter chill has driven the frost under city streets and sidewalks, which don’t have an insulating blanket of snow, deep underground, passing the seven or even eight foot mark.
“We can tell when we open up the manholes,” Piskula said. “You can see the frost line in those bricks.”
The easy fix would be to tell all city residents to keep their water running at a trickle, but that would overwhelm the city wells and the sewage treatment plant.
Instead, the city is using a piecemeal approach that it hopes will bring good results.
City residents are advising certain households in freeze-up prone areas, such as the city’s southeast side, to run a single faucet in their home in a continuous trickle. Only households that are informed by the city should run their water and their bill will be credited accordingly. Right now, about 400 homes, about 10 percent of the city, have spigots running continuously.
In addition, the city is attempting to “warm up” the mains by adding water from the south wells without bringing it into the treatment plant for softening first.
Bill Obenauf, the city’s water and wastewater manager, explained that the water being pumped from the ground is about 46 to 48 degrees, but it cools down very quickly in the storage towers, to about 34 degrees. Adding the warm water directly heats up the entire system slightly.
Obenauf said that with direct feed, about 60 percent of city water is softened at the plant. The water straight from the wells is disinfected.
Crews are also flushing city hydrants, forcing more flow through the pipes in another attempt to keep things moving and warm. This morning, a temperature check at one of the hydrants registered water at 36 degrees.
“We think the decisions we’re making are having an effect,” Mark Desotell, the city’s director of administrative services, said.
But even with the flushing and direct feed, Desotell said more freeze-ups are likely to occur, and that’s where city residents can help.
He is asking those who have been told to run their water to check the rate. A gallon milk jug should fill up in seven to 10 minutes, equivalent to about 150 to 200 gallons of usage a day. If the jug fills slower, turn the water up. Faster, reduce the flow.
Desotell said that if everyone running their water does that simple measurement a couple times a week, overall water usage will be reduced, easing the load on the system and allowing more and more households to be added to the run list.
The problem won’t go away soon, even as temperatures are predicted to warm. The frost will go deeper into the ground before it dissipates, and there are concerns that as temperatures climb, people running their water will think the concern is over and turn off the taps.
“Do not run that water off until notified,” Desotell stressed.
Antigo is not the only community experiencing problems.. Village of White Lake residents are being told to trickle their water around-the clock, with public works crews going around to homes to help adjust the correct flow.
Other communities across the region including Marinette, Menominee, Mich., Rhinelander, Schofield, Mosinee and Weston are also dealing with similar situations.
“These are extreme conditions are we’re trying the balance the system,” Desotell said. “Between direct feed, temperatures beginning to go up and residences running that pencil-thing stream of water, we should be able to keep most lines open.”
Tom Gervais checks the water temperature at a hydrant today. The site on Lincoln Street tested at 36 degrees, close to freezing.
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