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Temps freeze water lines

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Jean Carlan spent a recent afternoon going through a neighbor’s house, one she helps take care of when they’re gone, discovering that the faucets did not work, the toilets would not flush and no water was coming from the shower heads.

She says the water meter at the house, on the 500 block of Park Avenue, in Old Town, froze, leaving her neighbor’s guests without running water, a problem that City Hall says has been reported more than 100 times since the start of the year.

"Their guests called me and said, ‘Jean, there’s no water,’" Carlan says.

The Park City Water Department sent a crew to thaw the meter with a butane torch and, a half an hour later, the water started to flow. Carlan says she took precautions to make sure the pipes did not freeze and the problems were unexpected.

"I was very surprised because we checked their water to make sure it was running on the cold days," Carlan says.

Kathy Lundborg, City Hall’s water manager, says, through the middle of the week, her department had received 128 calls from people complaining that water was not flowing because of the weather. Most were from Old Town but the problems stretched through the city, Lundborg says.

She says the problems generally are between the water meter, which are underground and usually near a property line, and the street. At that spot, she says, there is not much snow this winter, which would insulate the pipes. Traffic, she says, drives the frost deeper underground as well.

If problems are between the meter and the street, City Hall is responsible. If they are between the meter and the house, the homeowner is responsible, Lundborg says. She says about 75 percent of the most recent problems have fallen under the local government’s responsibility.

Lundborg says January’s consistently cold weather created problems, which were made worse by little snow on the ground. She expects that people will continue having problems through the spring because the moisture in the ground still freezes.

The problems are worse this year, Lundborg reported to Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council this week. In a memo to the elected officials, Lundborg indicates, last winter, there were 42 complaints, about a third of the current tally for this winter.

In her report, Lundborg says some are using "creative solutions" for water service. She indicates some have hooked up hoses to neighbors’ houses where the lines are not frozen and others are using hoses connected to hydrants. She says it is more difficult to get the parts needed for repairs because they are scarce as other places in Utah are experiencing problems.

The city says some Parkites are happy with water crews when they are summoned but others have not been pleased by City Hall’s response, including some of those made to get their water through hoses.

Lundborg says in the report some people have had problems several times. The repeat freezes account for about 10 percent of the calls, she says. People who do not follow instructions to keep water running after a first occurrence are scheduled last for maintenance, the report indicates.

She says the repairs take as short as 30 minutes or as long as six hours. Some require one worker and others must be handled by a crew of three or four.

The city recently published tips that could prevent frozen lines. They include:

( Keeping open cabinets that contain plumbing in the bathroom and kitchen. That allows heat to reach them, according to the city.

( Maintain the thermostat at at least 55 degrees, whether someone is home or not.

( Keep faucets dripping and adjust toilet floats to ensure that water continues to run.

( Put insulation in crawl spaces and places that are drafty.

Lundborg says staffers are busy responding to the problems, which, she says, are "worse than ever." She says the crews are compiling lots of overtime.

"That’s all we’re doing, literally. A lot of them, we’re having to go back four or five times," she says, adding that she worries about the problems that may occur if temperatures drop from the unseasonably warm trend the area experienced this week. "If it gets cold again, it’s going to be bad."

On Park Avenue, Carlan says her neighbor’s friends, who visited from Salt Lake City, were not unhappy with the lack of flowing water.

"They understand that the owners are not here all the time," she says. "They really wanted to help fix the problem."


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