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More Calgarians will experience frozen water lines in coming weeks: Water Services

Calgary’s water services team says they’re having one of the worst winters for frozen pipes in living memory, and they expect more cases to crop up yet.

Lee Dupras, leader of repair and maintenance with Calgary Water Services said he hasn’t seen a winter this bad in his 15 years on the job.

“Some of our staff who have been around much longer than myself, they did experience a similar situation back around 1979-82,” he said.

Dupras said the frost has gone down to eight feet in places, and it makes it very difficult for crews to even access the pipes to begin working on them.

“Digging through frost is extremely difficult – it’s like concrete,” he said.

  • Properties reporting frozen lines since Sunday – 61
  • Incidents resolved – 2
  • Homes remaining with frozen lines – 42
  • Businesses remaining with frozen lines – 17
  • Care packages successfully delivered – 28
  • Boiler trucks available to steam pipes – 4
  • Average time spent steaming – 2 hours

Chris Huston, manager of drinking water distribution, told reporters that they expect to receive more calls in the weeks ahead. He explained that any time we have cold nights, the frost in the ground keeps creeping deeper, even if it’s warm during the day.

He explained that Calgary’s water supply, coming from a river, is not very warm to begin with.

Water comes into the plant from the river at about 0 degrees, and the treatment process only warms it up to about 1.2 degrees, before it flows out to homes.

“It doesn’t take much for that to freeze,” he said.

In total, the city has four crews that can go out and apply steam to water lines that have frozen. Huston said they typically apply steam to a water service valve for about 2 hours. If that doesn’t work, a crew can pump hot water down the line from inside the home.

“If that doesn’t work, then we have to dig down on the service and open the pipe on both ends and pump from both directions,” he said. “It can be a lengthy process. The first time we attempt to thaw it doesn’t always work.”

The city has been delivering care packages to affected homes. It’s also sending out letters to a remaining 390 homes that now qualify for the city’s Frozen Pipe Prevention Program. Those homeowners will receive reduced water bills, but are asked to keep a tap running to prevent pipes from freezing.

There are about 1,200 homes in total on that program, however it isn’t a sure fix. LiveWire spoke with one resident who had her pipes freeze, even though her taps were left on.

Huston thanked homeowners and business owners with frozen pipes for their patience, and he reminded all Calgarians that their neighbours may need to fill up a few buckets and bottles of water if they find their lines have frozen.

“It’s a good opportunity to be a good neighbour and help those folks out,” said Houston.