Frozen water lines hit downtown

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – Problems with frozen water lines are growing in the city, although the impact is still not city-wide.

Several properties on Mill Street – including the offices of The Review – suffered frozen pipes that caused water to stop running Monday morning.

“We’ve got about 18 houses (and properties) that have frozen up,” Public Works Director/City Engineer Bill Immich acknowledged Monday.

The city had issued a request to residents in a four-block stretch of Eastern Avenue – between Collins and Bishop streets – to keep their water running last week to prevent water laterals from freezing up.

That order affected about 30 houses, according to Immich.

Later, that request was expanded to include homes and properties on dead end streets, as well as other areas where frozen pipes were reported.

Monday afternoon, Plymouth Utilities expanded the order to include properties along Mill Street after several incidents of frozen pipes were reported that morning.

“Right now, we have about 200 houses (and properties) running water out of 3,000 in the city,” Immich noted.

“We haven’t seen anything in any of the newer areas of the city,” Immich said of the frozen pipes. “In all the newer subdivisions we haven’t had any problems.”

The problem is that ground frost has extended down five to six feet, which is close to the depth of water laterals in many areas of the city.

Plymouth Utilities is trying to avoid a city-wide order to run water, Immich explained. “If a person runs their faucet all day, we figured that’s about 360 gallons a day. We’re kind of concerned whether the system can handle that,” if that much water was being run in every household in the city.

Immich emphasized that Plymouth Utilities will pay the additional costs of water use for those who are directly requested by the utilities to keep their water running, but only for those customers and not others who elect to run water on their own.

Immich said if residents anywhere in the city turn their water on and it doesn’t work, they should call Plymouth Utilities at 893-1471 immediately.

“Don’t hire a plumber to do this work and expect Plymouth Utilities to pay for it. We’re required by the Public Service Commission to provide this service to our customers,” Immich concluded.

Communities throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest, including several others in Sheboygan County, are dealing with similar issues, the result of an unusually cold winter thus far, with extended periods of deep cold.

Residents concerned about their pipes freezing who have not been contacted by Plymouth Utilities can run water for at least five minutes at a time for twice a day or more and can also consider a constant, slow trickle from one faucet, especially overnight.

Racine Water Department General Manager Keith Haas told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel earlier this month, “If you let 100 gallons per day trickle through your faucet, filling a five-gallon bucket every hour, it will cost you less than $5 per week on your water bill.”

In Plymouth, Immich said officials will continue to monitor the situation closely.

“It’s tricky, but we’re trying to do the best we can,” he said.

“It could get worse before it gets better,” Immich added. As temperatures eventually rise, it may push the frost deeper into the ground before eventually driving it completely, which could imperil more pipes.

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