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Marlinton Mayor’s Corner

COLD WEATHER AND FROZEN PIPES

Plumbing issues change with the weather. In sub-freezing temperatures, things get particularly interesting, as two elements come together: water and zero degrees. The cold season means your pipes are at risk, always. In addition, habits change during the winter. Water consumption rises as water faucets are left to drip, putting an extra load on pipes and drains. Frozen pipes are an issue in winter.

Although water freezes at 32 degrees, the water in your pipes won’t turn to ice the minute the temperature dips below freezing. Specialist say, the outdoor temperature threshold for frozen pipes is around 20 degrees. When nighttime temperatures dip below that, it makes sense to make every effort to prevent frozen pipes.

The municipal water lines and the main supply line to your house are generally buried below the frost line, where latent heat energy in the ground keeps water in the pipes above freezing. But, on very cold nights, the municipal water entering a home’s supply lines can become cold enough to freeze. When the supply pipe comes to the surface, heat in the water dissipates into the colder air, and freezing can occur. The cold temperature and windy conditions, raises the possibility of frozen pipes anywhere from the meter-well to the faucet. Often, the problem is found closer to the home foundation or crawl space when the supply line actually comes out of the ground, before it enters the dwelling.

The Town has not totaled all the calls from last week, regarding frozen pipes, but there have been plenty (more than 50). Some of those locations have been returned to as many as six and seven times, as we turn meters on and off. Usually because customers are certain “the problem is on the Town side of the meter” and about 20%, or 1 in 5, has been a Town issue.

Reasons vary. In one case, a cover on the meter well, was not secured. More than one had not received enough sawdust to fully insulate the water meter and had to be replaced. Over the years, some meters-wells were not properly installed. In these cases, two or three inches too shallow makes a difference with the kind of weather we had last week.

Protect your property and your comfort by taking a few precautions to help stave off freezing pipes. Here are some ways:

· Exposed pipes – both cold water and hot water – in areas like a crawl space, basement or attic can be covered with foam pipe insulation sleeves or wrapped with pipe insulation tape. Electrical heat tape can be applied to short spans of pipe in areas particularly prone to freezing.

· Warm air circulating throughout the home benefits plumbing that may be susceptible to freezing. Open cabinets under sinks and close to exterior walls to allow household heat to the pipes.

· Outdoor air vents to the crawl space should be closed. This provides some protection against freezing pipes in the crawl space.

· It’s long been known that opening faucets in the house just enough to emit a trickle of water, and leaving them running during any period when temperatures drop below the pipe-freezing threshold, is an effective way to prevent damage to pipes. Even with higher water rates, this small movement of water through the pipes can prevent freezing. But, did you see Niagara Falls frozen in place last week? The point is, even rapidly moving water freezes in the worst of conditions.

Lastly, frozen pipes don’t rupture because of the force of ice expanding outward. Instead, ice forming in the pipe expands laterally and pressurizes water trapped in the pipe between the site of the ice formation and a closed faucet or other outlet. This over-pressurized water is the force that ruptures the pipe. Opening faucets slightly throughout the house and allowing them to drip provides pressure relief and fends off pipe damage.

Last week: I provided some comparison water rates. If you recall, the Step #1 increase that will apply to the January/February billing is a new minimum bill of $66. A 10-cent per day increase raising the new cost to .0165 cent per gallon.

Doddridge County PSD, (look it up): The proposed rate = .0159 per gallon.

Is Doddridge PSD cheaper? Yes, by .0006 cents per gallon. Are Marlinton rates in line? Yes.

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