Waukesha customers asked to run water to prevent lateral freezes

Published on: 2/11/2014

In the last week, 42 water utility laterals have frozen in the city, according to Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak.

To prevent laterals in homes and businesses from freezing, Duchniak said all water utility customers are being asked to run water full flow from a cold water faucet for five minutes, five or six times per day.

He said this procedure should be followed until the end of the month.

Cold water faucets should be used because running hot water is not as effective and also wastes energy, Duchniak said.

Duchniak said dead ends, cul-de-sacs and subdivisions with minimal development are the areas most susceptible to freezing laterals.

"We are seeing water temperatures as low as 33 degrees in our water mains," Duchniak said. "At that temperature, it does not take long to freeze if the water is not moving. People need to turn over the water from the street to their houses, or else it can easily freeze in their laterals."

Duchniak said customers should watch for discolored or rusty water.

"That is an early sign of pipes freezing," he said. "If you see that, run your cold water hard until the water clears."

The first time a lateral freezes, the utility will repair without charge. If it freezes again, the property owner must pay the costs, which can be up to $4,000 or $5,000.

There are normally just one or two frozen laterals in a year in the city, Duchniak said. But he added that the number of frozen laterals has increased because of the extremely cold temperatures.

The water utility general manager said Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and other utilities in the area are having similar problems.

"It has been a very busy year," he said. "The utility crews have done an outstanding job working long hours to ensure everyone has water service. They are very dedicated to their jobs and to our customers."

Duchniak said residents who are leaving for an extended period of time should make sure that their basements are warm.

"You may want to have someone come to your house regularly to run cold water to make sure your lateral doesn't freeze," he said.

In a precautionary measure, the water utility has some hydrants running with hoses throughout the city to try to turn over the cold water. The utility is asking residents to notify them if they see hydrants running without barricades and hoses.

Prerecorded calls to customers were made by the Water Utility Department last week to alert them of the issue. Some calls were targeted to certain areas to try to move water across the city and to increase the water temperature in the distribution system.

"If you get a call, please follow the instructions to help us prevent problems for you and for others," Duchniak said.