Prevention is the best policy – Frozen Service Line Prevention

Prevention is the best policy when it comes to frozen service lines. Here are few tips and procedures that your system can follow:

Things the water system should consider in a written policy:

*Spell out ownership of service lines (as according to your city ordinances) i.e.: city owns the main lines and customer is responsible for service line from corp stop to house/business.

*Ask residents to monitor water temperature: Sample verbiage: city will monitor water temperature at specific locations in the system. When the temperature reaches 38 degrees, the city will notify the public to monitor their water temperatures coming into the homes and businesses. Monitor temperature from the faucet that is closest to the water line entry to the home/businesses.

*Require residents to run a pencil-sized width stream of water from a faucet: Sample verbiage: when the water reaches 38 degrees, the city recommends to run the water at a pencil-sized stream (1/4 gallon/minute).

*Require when residents should start running their tap AND when they should stop. Residents should have a clear idea of when to start running their tap and when to stop. Sample verbiage: This will not be a short term situation as it will take multiple days, possibly weeks, before the frost levels decrease and the risk of freezing has passed.

*Inform residents of the cost of running their tap: Sample verbiage: all water going through the meter will be billed. Water will run at approximately 575-700 gallons/day of usage x 30 days = ___________ gallons divided by 1,000 and multiplied by cost per thousand gallons (1) = ____________ per month (then divide by 30 days to get a per day price). Sewer will be charged on the same formula. Remind residents that thawing a frozen service line varies by contractor and usually the minimum fee is at least $400. The city does not thaw out frozen service lines and having a contractor perform that service will get expensive.

-OR- *City may decide to reimburse for running water expenses or average-out the water bills during months of running the water. Sample verbiage: all utility bills will be adjusted based on average usage.

*Remind residents of the possibility of a sewer backup due to letting the water run. Remind residents to monitor for frozen sewer lines also due to letting the water run.

*Have a list of qualified contractors that can thaw frozen service lines available for residents.

(1) Located on current water bill or call city office for rate.

Tom Bergerson from Cannon Falls created a kit (photo at right) designed to help the City with a protocol for dealing with freeze up issues:

“What I have assembled here is a picture of a kit that has the following:

  • A list of customers that froze, with addresses, phone numbers and any pertinent information.
  • A door hanger asking for customers to run their water, with my business card enclosed.
  • A copy of our freeze up policy.
  • A digital thermometer that reads down to 26 degrees, it does not activate until it is open, so I hope we have some shelf life on the battery.
  • A small container to hold 10 of each of the above items.

In the event we see conditions that warrant concern, we will start to implement the following protocol.

STEP ONE: Monitor OUR site then when OUR test site hits 38 degrees, we will implement step 2.
STEP TWO: Deliver a packet to the ten most vulnerable spots on our enclosed list. Step three would engage when we start getting feedback that the majority of these sites are below 38 degrees.
STEP THREE: Start a campaign of delivering door hangers to the rest of the freeze ups on the list, which for us was 40 more additional sites.
STEP FOUR: If conditions continue, we would then use the local paper, city website and city Facebook to deliver the request for citizens to run their water as a precaution.
STEP FIVE: If there were freeze ups, provide a list of licensed pipe thawers to the customer. We would ask that they be licensed and insured. We would also have as a protocol that if the thawer was going to use a neighbors curb stop, that neighbor would have to call and request we locate the curb stop. Thus assuring the neighbor was also aware of the risk.
STEP SIX: Provide alternatives as best we can, such as bottled water or instructing the customer with the frozen line to work with the neighboring customer to supply water from their home.”