Unprecedented frost depths this year are causing a number of issues relating to the City’s underground water collection and distribution system. Lengthy periods of extreme cold temperatures this winter have made typical conditions worse.
The cold has caused the frost to penetrate to the depth of the water mains. At this depth, the frost has the potential to cause service lines to freeze and can also increase the frequency of breaks when the spring thaw occurs. Crews are reporting frost as deep as 9 feet in some areas when typically frost depths are experienced between 4 and 6 feet. This means that the frost this year is reaching water mains it does not typically reach.
The following is a summary of the issues currently being dealt with. It is expected that these issues will continue over the next two months until temperatures are warm enough and frost is out of the ground.
1. Water Main Breaks
Cold temperatures in the winter cause water mains to contract and in the spring warmer temperatures cause pipes to expand. In some cases, particularly in the case of cast iron pipes where there is very little flexibility, this is enough to cause a break in the water main. Also, the freeze-thaw cycles cause the ground to shift which could highly contribute to main breaks. If there are no complications a water main break can usually be repaired within 24 hours. Some water mains are more complicated and may take longer to repair.
2. Frozen catch basins
This is another issue dealt with each spring. Catch basins freeze up which stops water from draining properly. In these cases water will start to pool on city streets. There are over 2500 catch basins in Prince Albert and each frozen one can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours to thaw. Water pooling on a street could be an indication of a frozen catch basin.
3. Frozen Service Lines
A service connection is the line that connects a house to the City’s main water supply. In the winter, frost enters the ground and depending on winter weather temperatures, soil conditions, pipe material, pipe age, amount of water used, etc. the water in the service connection can freeze. In these cases the City will send a crew with specialized equipment to thaw the connection. If this does not work then the service line will need to be dug-up and thawed manually.
There are a number of properties with shallow services that experience frozen lines each year. These properties have already received a letter from the City. In these cases, property owners should follow instructions outlined in the letter.
Many of these issues must be dealt with simultaneously and additional crews have been called in to assist. Many employees are working long hours and the City is requesting the public’s patience while Water and Sewer crews respond. The City deals with water works issues in a priority mannar. Water main breaks will be dealt with first, as they impact many people, followed by service connections. Catch basins on arterial streets and concerned drainage areas will be dealt with first followed by catch basins on less busy streets.
If you are without water, it is possible that you have a frozen service line or that there is a water main break in your area. In these cases, you are encouraged to immediately report the issue to the Public Works Department. Additionally, pooling water on the street could be a sign of a water main break or a frozen catch basin.
In any of these cases, the public can report the issue to Public Works at (306) 953-4900 or email through Report a Problem on the City’s website.
For more information, please contact:
Phone: (306) 953-4900