Frigid temperatures bringing frozen waterlines to many Eastern Iowa communities

City officials, residents dealing with more burst pipes than in recent past

Brett Rathje (front) and Eric Egge (back) look on as Derek Young works on a valve as they try to repair a water main break in Onslow on Monday, February 10, 2014. Rathje, Egge, and Young work for Ricklefs Excavating. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Brett Rathje (front) and Eric Egge (back) look on as Derek Young works on a valve as they try to repair a water main break in Onslow on Monday, February 10, 2014. Rathje, Egge, and Young work for Ricklefs Excavating. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Frigid temperatures are disrupting the water flow in several eastern Iowa communities.

Todd Wyman, public works director in Springville, said frost in the ground has exceeded 42 inches deep, which he said is standard depth for water pipes, and it is leading to frozen pipes.

"The frost has gone past that already," Wyman said. "Even if you've never had problems in the past, this year you need to pay attention."

This winter has been bitterly cold, and as of yet doesn't appear to be letting up. The low temperature on Monday was minus 19, and the forecast calls for the same on Tuesday.

Service lines, which splinter off from the city's water main to feed water to individual houses, are more susceptible to freezing. At least two homes in Springville have reported problems, he said.

Wyman said they've developed temporary fixes by running water through garden hoses from a neighboring home. The hoses were insulated and covered in snow to block out the wind, Wyman said.

The Ottumwa Courier reports that Ottumwa officials received at least two dozen calls on Monday morning about frozen resident service lines. Several homes in Mason City have been without water for nearly a week due to frozen pipes, KIMT-TV3 reported.

Springville is among the communities urging residents to let their faucets run in order to prevent water from sitting and icing up.

"The biggest thing everyone in eastern Iowa right now needs to be checking every day is their water temperature," Wyman said. "If it is lower than 38 degrees, let it trickle about the size of a pencil."

Wyman recommends leaving the faucet on for five or 10 minutes to get an accurate thermometer reading. Letting it run for a while will ensure the water being tested is from outside the home, he said.

In one city, Onslow, the entire water supply was shut off after the primary water main burst on Monday morning.

"We've got a construction company in here to dig it out, and get it working again," Onslow Mayor Dean Holerud said, noting the break occurred sometime before 7 a.m. Officials expected to have the problem fixed by afternoon.

Due to the break, Holerud said the town of about 200 people will be under a 48-hour boil alert, which means during this period the water should be boiled before using.

The problem is not confined to smaller communities.

The Cedar Rapids Water Division released a statement that it has received reports of homes with frozen service lines.

"As the frost level has deepened in the soil, homes with shallow water services lines are starting to experience problems," according to the statement.

A call for more information was not immediately returned.

Cedar Rapids homes built before 1970, which is when city code required water service lines to be buried between 5.5 and 6 feet deep, are most susceptible to freezing, according to the statement.

Water service lines are the homeowner's responsibility, according to the statement.

As with Springville, Cedar Rapids residents can let the faucet drip slowly, and if water is not working and there isn't a service disruption, residents are advised to contact a certified plumber.

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