City workers were dealing with snow instead of cold on Friday near Ross Street where work was underway to repair a sewer line. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Leaky and frozen water lines keep workers busy in Red Deer

Mature neighbourhoods with metal water pipes more susceptible

City workers dealt with 16 frozen water service lines and 12 water leaks during the February deep freeze.

“Normally the frost level never really hits our water infrastructure below ground. But because it’s been so cold for so long, that frost level has gotten deeper than normal and it’s affected some of our water system,” said D.J. Brough, the city’s environmental construction superintendent, on Friday.

After 15 years on the job, Brough said he has never seen so many frozen water lines. The city averages about 60 water leaks a year. Spread out, it would an average about five per month, so leaks more than doubled during the cold snap.

During the cold leaks occurred on water main lines, as well as the smaller water service lines that run to buildings from water mains. Water service lines were also the lines that froze because they are smaller lines with less water running through them.

He said the worst frozen line happened a couple weeks ago on 55th Street that disrupted traffic for a few days.

“The ground was so hard. When traffic drives on a street, it pounds that frost deeper into the ground. So the frost was so hard and so deep it took us a long time to get to the pipe itself to do the work we needed to do.”

He said mature neighbourhoods with metal water lines are more susceptible to breakage compared to plastic lines in newer neighbourhoods that are more flexible. A few times water mains had to be shut down for short periods for repairs and boil water orders were issued.

Brough said more leaks could also happen as the weather starts to warm up and the frost starts to shift again.

“Any fluctuation in temperature, it will get that ground moving. We’re crossing our fingers.”

See related:

Bursting pipes new worry as Prairies emerge from wintry deep freeze

Cold weather impacts students in central Alberta

He said working in -40 C weather is not easy and he commended workers who laboured outside to provide the services citizens needed.

“They know it’s important work and they work hard through these conditions.”

He also thanked residents for their understanding.

“They know how hard the guys are working out in front of their house in that weather. Their patience and co-operation has been excellent,” Brough said.

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