Cold snap too much for water lineCold weather and shifting ground left one neighborhood without water for several hours last weekend. Around 9:30 a.m. Saturday, a water main broke on the 500 block of Heritage Way, according to Farmington director of municipal services Todd Reiten. The break left residents without water for most of the day, and left a few without cable and telephone service.
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
Cold weather and shifting ground left one neighborhood without water for several hours last weekend.
Around 9:30 a.m. Saturday, a water main broke on the 500 block of Heritage Way, according to Farmington director of municipal services Todd Reiten. The break left residents without water for most of the day, and left a few without cable and telephone service.
The break happened when the ground surrounding a fire hydrant apparently shifted due to the cold weather. The shift caused the flange that connects a water pipe to the hydrant to come loose.
“It wasn’t hit or anything. It’s kind of strange,” Reiten said. “It’s hard to say why it happened. There was frost, but it was almost like (the flange) popped off.”
The result was gallons and gallons of water flowing out from the hydrant. Seeing water flowing down the street when he first got up Saturday was a bit of a surprise to Leif Classon, who lives just two doors down from the hydrant.
“I kind of did a double take at first,” Classon said. “You just wake up and look out to see if the sun’s out, and it was like I was looking at the St. Croix River.”
A big break
Normally, if a water main breaks on the weekend, city crews will try to stop the initial water flow, but save the full repair until the workweek. This weekend’s break, though, was so bad it needed to be fixed right away.
“There was water shooting everywhere,” Reiten said. “The thing was leaking really bad. We had to fix it.”
Correcting the problem proved to be a big process. Because fixing the break required digging up parts of the hydrant, city workers had to call Gopher One to figure out where gas lines were located. There were cable and phone lines buried in the same area, so Frontier Communications and Charter Communications were also called.
The force of the water was enough that it cleared away about three feet of soil and grass surrounding the hydrant. In order to get to the break, crews had to dig a hole eight to nine feet deep, and about 10 feet around the perimeter.
Water in the neighborhood was turned off for the majority of the day while various crews went to work. Classon said city workers came around to the homes about 10 or 15 minutes before the water was turned off and advised residents to fill up jugs or buckets for use during the day.
The hydrant itself was damaged, so Reiten also had to contact Minnesota Pipe and Equipment, the makers of the fire hydrants, to bring out a replacement hydrant. The city keeps some equipment on hand to repair hydrants, but in this case, it was better to go with a new one.
“They have these things called a band aid, which is a big strap. We have those, but we don’t keep an expensive hydrant lying around,” Reiten said.
Getting the hydrant fixed may have taken less time had the break occurred on a weekday. On Saturday, though, most of the contacts made were to employees who were on call, and who lived outside of the community. Much of the hold-up in Saturday’s repairs was due to city workers having to wait for those contacts to arrive, Reiten said.
Once the hydrant was repaired, city crews filled in the hole they had dug to get to the break. About 10 minutes later, Reiten said, a resident came outside and said he did not have any cable, telephone or computer service. It turns out that when the hole was filled in, the Charter cable line was snapped. So, Charter was called to the area again.
A temporary cable connection has been installed in the neighborhood. On Monday, Charter and city employees went back to Heritage Way to thaw out the hole and make a permanent connection.
Saturday’s cold temperatures played a factor in the repairs, too. Many of the pumps and other equipment used by the repair crews froze up while in use.
The water and mud also made for a bit of a mess on Heritage Way.
“It froze right away when they shut off the water,” Classon said. “It was frozen ice and mud out there. It still is.”
It was about 7 p.m. when the water was turned back on. Reiten expects some additional repairs will have to be done in the spring, since crews had to tear out part of the curb and blacktop in order to replace the hydrant.
Aside from the commotion of the day, Classon said the leak was not a big inconvenience and commended the city’s work.
“Those city guys were very good. They did a very good job of getting the water back on in the same day. They worked very hard in the cold,” he said.
The cold weather has also apparently caused problems at Schmitz-Maki Arena.
About 1:30 p.m. Sunday, a sensor at the ice arena went off, notifying city crews the ice arena was without power. Reiten said the problem seems to be with the Xcel Energy lines, which are also underground.
On Monday, part of Spruce Street in front of the arena was closed off to allow Xcel crews to thaw the ground so Xcel could repair the damage. The power was back on by Monday evening.