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In DL, water lines close to freezing

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Over the past week, Detroit Lakes public utilities workers have been “super busy” handling more than 20 cases of residential service lines freezing up, said Josh  Mason with the Public Utilities Department.

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A service line connects a house or business to a city water main under the street.

Detroit Lakes residents should check their tap water temperatures with a thermometer, and if it’s 40 degrees or colder, leave a pencil-thick flow of cold water going to prevent pipes from freezing shut, Mason said.

Property-owners are responsible for service lines, and have to pay for the city’s pipe-thawing service. It can easily cost several hundred dollars between the city and the cost of a plumber.

It’s cheaper to leave a stream of water flowing from a cold water tap in the sink.

It’s a regional issue: Brainerd recently issued a similar warning to its residents.

The problem stems from a deeper-than-normal frost line, which is down to 7 or 8 feet in some places. The frost line doesn’t usually run deeper than about 5 feet in this area.

“It just got too cold, too quick this year and we didn’t have enough snow early on,” Mason said. “It kind of jump-started the frost-making process.” The bitterly cold temperatures this winter sunk the frost line even deeper, he said.

And in the short-term, warmer weather isn’t going to help. Mason said the problem is going to get worse before it gets better: With high temperatures in the 20s and 30s forecast for the next few days, insulating snow cover will be lost and the frost line will be driven down even more.

“It seems odd to me, but they say when it warms up, it actually pushes the frost down deeper,” he said.

And changes in air temperature can take a long time to equate to a change in temperature deep underground, he added.

There are some areas in Detroit Lakes that traditionally experience problems with freezing pipes, but this year “it’s all over the place,” Mason said. “Especially in areas where snow has been removed.”

Residents are encouraged to test their cold water temperature by letting the water run until it comes from street level, then check the temperature while the water is running.

If it drops to 40 degrees or below, there may be an impending freeze, and the frost may be getting close to the service line.  Leave a cold water sink tap running in a stream about the width of a pencil.

In some cases, the city is worried about water mains freezing (one did recently on Linden Lane near Bergen’s greenhouse)  and will ask residents to leave a stream of tap water running. The city pays for running water only when it makes the request to save a water main, Mason said.

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