During this cold, cold winter, the city of Portage has so far managed to avoid freeze-ups of any city water mains, City Administrator Shawn Murphy told the Portage Common Council on Thursday.
However, Public Works Director Aaron Jahncke said last week’s January thaw had almost no impact on the depth of frost in the soil — meaning some shallow mains or laterals still could freeze.
Murphy told the Council there is not now, and has not been this winter, any citywide advisory to keep water faucets dripping to reduce the likelihood of frozen pipes.
However, some property owners have been contacted personally by workers from the city water utility, or have had notes posted on their doors, with advice to keep the water running.
For those who get such a notification, Murphy said, the water bills won’t reflect the perpetual flow; rather, customers will be billed based on an average of previous months’ water bills. This applies only to property owners who have been asked by city officials to run their water.
Jahncke said the frost is 42 inches deep, and its depth didn’t decrease much when temperatures climbed into the 40s this week. Usually, he said, frozen pipes can become a problem when the frost is 48 to 54 inches inches deep.
The city is responsible for maintaining city-owned water mains, Jahncke said, but property owners have to take care of the laterals that connect water service to their buildings.
There have been laterals that have frozen this season, Jahncke said.
A property owner seeking help or advice on how to care for laterals that have frozen, or how to reduce the likelihood of freezing, may contact the city’s water utility at 608-742-4727.
In February 2014, the city and many others in the area experienced widespread incidents of frozen pipes – including a water main freeze that left the Columbia County Annex, 120 W. Conant St., without running water or working toilets for a week.