Prolonged, extreme cold temperatures are having an impact on the City of Toronto’s watermains and the pipes that deliver water services to homes, causing delays in response times to service calls related to the cold weather.
Toronto has been experiencing unprecedented, sub-zero temperatures for an extended period of time. Water pipes are buried below the frost line, which is about four feet below the surface. Unusually cold weather is freezing the ground below the frost line, causing watermains to break more frequently and the underground pipes that bring water to homes to freeze.
The City has hired contractors to help Toronto Water staff thaw frozen underground water pipes, and is making arrangements to purchase more thawing equipment. Additional staff are being reassigned to assist with frozen pipes and watermain breaks. Municipalities throughout the Greater Toronto Area are also experiencing a significant increase in watermain breaks and freezing pipes. As a result, the City is not able to obtain assistance from neighbouring municipalities.
The City of Toronto is asking residents for their patience as it deals with extremely high volumes of service calls related to the cold weather.
From January 1 to February 28, the City has repaired 772 watermain breaks, received 1,839 no-water calls and repaired 438 leaking water services. In 2013, about 1,500 watermain breaks were recorded for the entire year.
How to help prevent underground water service pipes from freezing after repair
• If your underground water pipes have been repaired by the City, keep a tap open for a trickle of water to flow so there is some movement in the water pipes.
Tips for avoiding frozen pipes in your home
• While the temperature is well below freezing, consider leaving a tap open enough for a trickle of water to flow so there is some movement in the water pipes that might be vulnerable to freezing.
• If your water pipes are attached to an uninsulated outside wall, remove the clamp from the pipes and gently pull the pipes away from the wall and wrap them with insulation.
• Insulate all exposed outside water pipes with foam pipe covers that are available from building supply or home improvement stores.
• Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
• Open kitchen, bathroom and laundry cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
• If you are leaving your home for an extended period of time, you can shut off the main service valve in your basement and open all taps to drain the water out of your plumbing lines to prevent them from freezing.
• Commercial water customers need to prepare for cold nights as well. Protect fire lines by wrapping all lines that are exposed to cold.
Precautions/steps when thawing water pipes in your home
• Do not use a torch with an open flame to thaw pipes, as this is a fire hazard.
• Ensure you know the location of your master water shut-off valve. The frozen pipe may be broken and when the water in it thaws it will leak. If the pipe is broken, you will need to shut off the water in your house until the pipe is repaired.
Steps to thaw a frozen pipe
• Turn on a tap in the basement, preferably the cold water faucet in the laundry room.
• Use a blow dryer to warm the suspected frozen pipe for one or two hours. Check the blow dryer regularly to ensure it does not overheat.
• Place a warm towel or rag around the suspected frozen pipe.
• Depending on the outside temperature and the extent of freezing within the pipe, the thawing process could take from one to six hours.
More information is available at http://www.toronto.ca/water.