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Take precautions: Cold spell affecting water pipes

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News River Falls,Wisconsin 54022
River Falls Journal
Take precautions: Cold spell affecting water pipes
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

In the last month, River Falls Water Utility has responded to about a dozen frozen water pipe calls compared to one during the same time in 2013.


Since Jan. 1, RFMU has responded to water freezing issues in the exterior walls of homes, crawl spaces, and service laterals.

A water service lateral is the line leading to a house from the street. These are typically buried about eight feet and are the piece of the water system most difficult to control due to deep frost.

Said RFMU Director Kevin Westhuis: “Our crews report that the current frost line appears to be six feet below ground under bare areas, but as temperatures continue to plunge during the overnight hours, we expect that frost line to move deeper.”

“We are conducting routine system water temperature checks to make sure the water in River Falls’ mains and hydrants are well within the normal wintertime range. We also activity monitor and adjust water pumping and storage to keep the water in the system several degrees above freezing.”

If customers begin to notice discoloration in the water at their property, the water may be freezing as frost will dislodge particles from your pipes.

If this is the case, let water run at the rate of a pencil thin stream to thaw the line. If discoloration continues, call RFMU.

If your service lateral does freeze, utility workers will try to thaw it.

RFMU offers this at no charge the first time it occurs at a customer location. The assistance can only be done if the lateral is electrically conductive (metal pipe).

Thawing is done during daylight hours. If it freezes up overnight and you call in to report it, a crew will be out in the morning.

Residents may also choose to hire out and have a local plumber do the work.

RFMU offers tips for water meters and pipes:

--Make sure your basement is properly insulated, and check for areas where cold air may be rushing in

--Insulate pipes in unheated areas like crawl spaces, unheated garages, and attics.

--Leave some heat on in unused areas of your home.

--Never try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame and keep flammables clear of heat sources.

--Open cabinets in kitchens and baths where pipes are on exterior walls to introduce heat.

For service laterals, if your home’s service lateral line was frozen in the past, it might be a good idea to run a pencil-thin stream of water during the times of day when you typically use very little water.

If you’re planning to go out of town for a week or more, you may want to call the utility and have your water service shut off at the curb.

There is a $40 fee for restoring service when you return.

River Falls has been fortunate not to have had some of the severe freezing and extremely high numbers of freeze-ups as other communities.

At this time, RFMU is not asking all customers to run water to prevent freezing as has been reported in other Wisconsin communities.

The local situation is being monitored.

If you have a problem with water service, call the RFMU at (715) 425-0906.

City employees have produced a video about freezing water pipes, which can be seen on the city's website.