Cold weather causes water lines to break
It’s a cold fact of nature that freezing temperatures can do some serious damage to water lines, large and small, as a number of Holton residents and business owners were reminded with the recent deep-freeze.
But about 18 businesses in Holton that require more water than others have been allowed to benefit from “cloud-based” internet technology that Holton Water and Sewer Superintendent Dennis Ashcraft said allows his employees to find out more about water line issues at those businesses.
“We put those in as kind of a trial to see how they were going to work,” Ashcraft said of the “cloud-read” meters that have been put to work at businesses that utilize incoming water connection lines that are two inches or larger.
Also called “smart meters,” the cloud-based water meters utilize the internet to provide city officials with detailed and timely information about water use, as well as early notifications by email about possible water leaks caused by line ruptures due to freezing cold temperatures like the double-digits-below-zero temperatures the area experienced last week.
Ashcraft said that in the past two weeks, his crew has gone out to turn off water service to “roughly 20” city customers who reported leaking or breakage due to the sever cold.
“We may not be done yet. There might be a few more trickling in as the pipes thaw out and we realize that we had a leak or something that we didn’t know about before,” he said.
Area plumbers have also had their phones ringing off the hook due to residential water lines breaking during, or because of, the cold snap. John McManigal of John’s Repair in Holton said yesterday that he had answered “about a dozen” calls to fix broken water lines.
“We’re working on some today, two or three,” McManigal said. “But we’re about to get caught up.”
One water line break that Ashcraft said caused some concern over the weekend involved a business on Holton’s Town Square that suffered a ruptured water line in the basement that seeped through the wall and affected the basement of a neighboring business. A water crew was able to turn off the water at a meter on Saturday.
On Monday morning, the crew returned to the Square to clean out a water shut-off valve that was discovered to be missing a cover and full of mud and debris.
Ashcraft also noted that his crew had to fix three significant breaks in city water mains, two of which happened at night and kept the crew busy well into the early morning hours.
Had such a line break occurred at some area businesses with larger water lines, he noted, it could cause extreme financial damage for those businesses — but that’s one area where the new “smart meters” provide a benefit to those businesses that have them installed, he said.
The “cloud-read” meter that’s in use at area businesses utilizes a software system that analyzes the water pressure and can identify if water pressure rates are fluctuating due to a possible leak or break. If the system determines that pressures are high enough to possibly be a leak or a break, the system sends an alert.
The city can then contact the business by phone to see if they are letting faucet water drip or run to prevent their lines from freezing, or it they have a leak, it was reported.
Ashcraft said there are currently no plans to install these “smart meters” at city residences, which are currently served by radio-based water meters that a meter reader can access remotely. However, those radio-based residential meters also have their advantages — particularly for the reader.
“The nice thing about having that meter reader out there, walking that route and reading all those meters, or at least picking them up with the radio, is that sometimes they will notice a water leak that needs to be brought to people’s attention,” Ashcraft said. “It’s good to have those boots on the ground out there.”