BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -- One month ago in Black River Falls the temperature was seven degrees. The snow was still piling up and winter's end seemed like it was not anywhere in sight.
We watched as water operators unthawed a frozen pipe and put out a call for people to run their water continuously.
Fast forward to now and it is quite a bit warmer. Some of that snow is beginning to melt. But even with all of that, water operators are still concerned about freezing pipes.
"The only ones we're thawing now are the people that didn't get the notice or the ones who shut their water off, and that happens," said Casey Engebretson, a Water Operator in Black River Falls.
The big concern is over what you cannot see underground.
"We've had reports of over eight feet of frost," he said.
Frost that has been clinging to pipes and causing them to freeze or burst.
And so, several cities, towns and villages are asking people to keep a pencil-thin stream of water running until further notice.
That list includes Augusta, Black River Falls and some homes that have been notified in Eau Claire. Several other towns told WEAU a month ago that people should be running their water until further notice -- not stopping just because temps are warming up. The full list can be seen at the bottom of this article.
"Sometimes I forget, but I try to make sure I have it running all the time," said Deb Horan. She is a village board member in Merrillan.
She says people there should also keep running their water until further notice.
"It makes all the difference in the world," she added.
The big question then is: how long is "until further notice?"
It will depend on the town. In Black River Falls, it may be at least another month.
"It's hard to speculate but as of right now we're guessing it's probably going to be into April," he said.
The Augusta Water Department says despite the temperatures getting warmer, it is still having issues with frozen pipes and is asking everyone in the city to continue running a pencil-thin stream of water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until further notice.
The City says it will adjust utility bills to make up for the extra use. Anyone with questions can contact City of Augusta Water & Sewer Department at 715-286-2555.
Several other communities are also being asked to continue running water. A detailed list of the areas is below.
Property owners in the villages of Granton, Gilman, Dallas, Melrose, Hixton, Westby, Fall Creek, West Salem, New Auburn, Cadott, Boyd, Altoona, Barron, Greenwood, Independence, Merrillan, Bruce, Pigeon Falls, Coon Valley, Fairchild, Strum, New Lisbon, Alma Center, Taylor, the City of Blair, the City of Cornell, Thorp, Alma, Colfax, Weyerhaeuser, Black River Falls, Augusta, Hayward, Ladysmith, Whitehall, Rice Lake, Elk Mound, Hammond, Abbotsford and Mondovi are being asked to run a pencil-thin stream of water at their homes and businesses until further notice. Here is information from each of these areas.
CITY OF CORNELL:
The City of Cornell is asking ALL customers to run water continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, effective IMMEDIATELY. This effort is being made to prevent water pipes from freezing up. It is recommended that you run one faucet somewhere in your home where it is not likely to be shut off, and if possible to remove the handle, with a continuous stream of water, approximately the size of a pencil.
Attention ALL City of Abbotsford Water Utility Customers:
The City of Abbotsford is now requesting ALL water customers to run your water continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, effective IMMEDIATELY. This effort is being made to prevent water pipes from freezing up.
It is recommended that you run one faucet anywhere in your home with a continuous stream of water, approximately the size of a pencil.
Extreme cold weather has pushed frost depths past 7 feet in paved areas and where snow has been removed. This is very near the depth of water mains and water service laterals and is the likely cause of freeze ups that have occurred and would likely occur without this action. The City will inform you when you should stop running your water.
Customer water bills will be adjusted for the water usage to prevent freeze ups on the basis of historic usage as required by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.
For more information, questions or concerns, please call the Abbotsford City Hall at 715-223-3444 ext 0.
Residents in Elk Mound are asked to run a pencil-stream of cold water in one faucet of their home until further notice.
VILLAGE OF GRANTON:
Residents in Granton are being asked to run a pencil stream of water until further notice. Water bills will be adjusted accordingly. For more information, contact the Granton Police Department at 715-723-7481 or the Municipal Office at 715-238-7339.
VILLAGE OF DALLAS:
We are asking residents to run a pencil tip-sized stream of cold water at all times until further notice. Water bills will be adjusted for those residents who run water. Residents who don't run their water and experience a frozen water main may have to foot the bill to thaw the pipes.
Beginning immediately (02/13/2014) and until further notice, the Village of Gilman is requiring its residents to keep their faucets running to avoid having to deal with frozen pipes in the streets. Residents should continually run a pencil-sized stream of water from one of the faucets within their home. During this period, residents will be billed based on an average per our Workhorse Software. This will impact approximately 200 residents or customers
People in Westby are being asked to keep one faucet running. If anyone has questions they can call the Westby Utilities Office at 608-634-3416.
Due to extreme temperatures, the City of New Lisbon is asking their residents to begin running a pencil size stream of water until further notice. Residents will not be charged for the additional water or sewer as the bill will be based on what was used this time last year. If you have any questions, please contact Bob Anderson at 608-444-2387, City Hall at 608-562-5213 extension 2 for the City Clerk or extension 4 for the Utility Clerk.
The City of Barron is requesting their customers to run a pencil stream of water as of February 12. Bills will be adjusted accordingly. City will notify customers when they should turn it off.
Any questions, please call Barron Light & Water Utility at 715-537-3855.
VILLAGE OF MELROSE:
All Residents in the Village of Melrose are directed to run water in a pencil stream at one faucet in each home UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. With warmer temperatures in the forecast, frost is likely to be driven further into the ground. Any costs incurred as a result of failing to comply with this notice will be the homeowner’s personal responsibility. Water bills will be adjusted accordingly to match average monthly water/sewer bills.
VILLAGE OF HIXTON:
The Village of Hixton is requesting all residents to run a pencil size stream of water from one cold water tap in each home or business. Although Hixton has not experienced a water service freeze up in over 20 years, we are now having problems and taking this action to prevent any further issues.
The Village of New Auburn Utility is requesting all Village residents to run a pencil-size stream of water at one faucet in their home until further notice. If you have any questions, please call, 715-237-2223.
The City of Altoona is issuing an advisory to all of its utility customers
due to the unusual number of frozen water services found over the past week. Water services are freezing due to the depth of the frost in the ground . The result is that water services may freeze at any point between the water main in the street and a customer's home.
Water customers are advised to take all necessary precautions to prevent their services from freezing, thereby avoiding the cost of paying someone to thaw the service pipe. The best way to avoid freezing is to trickle water from one of your faucets . This will prevent
freezing in most cases and will prevent the cost of thawing frozen pipes. The City recommends trickling a stream at least the diameter of a pencil lead to assure freeze up will not occur. Please note, however, the City will not issue credits for use of the tricking water unless you have been put on the City 's "trickling list" due to a freezing problem at some time in the past. Customers may be able to anticipate freezing pipes by paying attention to the water at their
fixtures and taking proactive measures to avoid freezing. Signs your service may be freezing include:
Unusually cold water temperature (less than 35° F) at any fixture
Unusually low water flow at a fixture
Discolored water at a fixture
Low water pressure at a fixture
Extremely cold piping at a fixture
Sputtering sound when opening a fixture.
If you experience any of the issues noted, please contact the Public Works Department at 715-839-6092 and begin trickling your water as described above immediately.
Notice to all residents of the Village of Weyerhaeuser. Please run a pencil size stream of water through one faucet until further notice. Your water bill will be adjusted to your normal charge.
There will be no additional cost for running your water. This action is to avoid any water freeze up within your home.
All customers in the City of Greenwood should keep an inside cold water faucet running a pencil-thin stream at all times in their home or business. This emergency order is due to the prolonged frigid temperatures and deepening frost levels and this should prevent water services from freezing. Customers will receive an adjustment on their utility bills. Should a customer's service freeze it will be their own responsibility to pay to have it thawed. Questions can be directed to the City of Greenwood at 715-267-6205 or the Utility Department at 715-267-7496.
VILLAGE OF WEST SALEM:
The West Salem Water Utility is requesting all Village residents connected to Village water run their cold water to prevent their pipes from freezing. Please run a stream of water the size of a pencil in one cold water faucet. DO NOT shut off until the Water Utility announces that it is safe even if the weather warms. The frost drives deeper when the temperature warms. We will announce to the local media when it is safe to shut off. You will receive a water & sewer credit for this usage. Please contact us at (608) 786-1858 or (608) 786-2850 if you have any questions. Thank you for your cooperation.
The Coon Valley Municipal Water Utility is requesting Village customers to run their cold water a pencil size stream until further notice to prevent freezing of water lines. If anyone has any questions, please phone our office at 452-3168. Thank you.
The Ladysmith Public Works Department says its asking people to run a pencil-size stream until further notice.
Hayward Public Works is urging everyone to keep one faucet running with waiter about a pencil size at all times until April. This is because they are concerned about water main breaks and pipes freezing up.
The city has seen about a dozen different pipe freezing cases so far this winter at home and business locations that have never frozen up before.
Notice to City of Augusta Residents: To prevent pipes from freezing,
please run water 24 hours a day until further notice. (approximately until late March or early April) We will adjust your utility bill to make up
for this extra use. Thank you, City of Augusta Water & Sewer Department. 715-286-2555. The stream of water should be about the size of a #2 pencil.
VILLAGE OF BOYD:
Effective immediately and until further notice, all customers of the Boyd Municipal Water Utility should keep an inside cold water faucet running at all times. The water stream should be as thin as possible to keep a constant flow of water (no dripping) and should be approximately the diameter of a pencil lead. This emergency order is due to the prolonged frigid temperatures and deepening frost levels, and should prevent water services from freezing. Customers will receive a credit on their water bills. Should a customer’s service freeze, it will be their own responsibility to pay to have it thawed.
Your cooperation is appreciated and is in your own best interest. Questions can be directed to the Village of Boyd Water Department at 715-667-3282 or Village Hall at 715-667-3420.
CITY OF INDEPENDENCE:
The Superintendent of Water & Water Waste Department contacted WEAU to say they're asking residents to run a pencil stream of water to avoid freezing pipes.
VILLAGE OF MERRILLAN:
Merrillan water customers are being asked to run a continuous
stream of water about the size of a pencil from one of their faucets in
their home or business until further notice. The duration of extreme cold has caused the frost to reach depths of five to six feet causing water laterals to freeze. The movement of the water through the water service will prevent most of the water lines from freezing. Customers' will not be billed for the additional water and sewer usage during this time. Property owners could be responsible for any costs of repairs if they fail to comply with the water request.
VILLAGE OF BRUCE:
The President of the Village of Bruce contacted WEAU saying that they've notified people several weeks ago to run water in a pencil stream. They've received several reports of pipes freezing in the area.
VILLAGE OF FAIRCHILD:
On Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Village of Fairchild contacted WEAU and said it is asking people there to run water in a pencil stream until further notice.
BLACK RIVER FALLS:
The Black River Falls Municipal Utilities sent out a release Tuesday afternoon asking all water customers within the City of Black River Falls to run a continuous stream of water about the size of a pencil from one of their faucets in their home or business until further notice.
It says the duration of extreme cold has caused the frost to reach depths of five to six feet causing water laterals (from the main to the building) to freeze. The movement of water through the water service will prevent most of the water lines from freezing. Customers' will not be billed for the additional water and sewer usage during this time.
If you have any questions please contact the BRFMU Water Department at 715-299-4942.
On Tuesday afternoon, the City of Mondovi also sent out a release asking all of its water users to run their water a pencil wide stream. The City will give adjustments on all water bills to normal usage for previous years in this quarter. People should contact City Hall at 715-926-3866 when they start running their water. The city says it will run an ad in the Mondovi Herald when it is safe for people to turn their water off.
VILLAGE OF STRUM:
Strum Public Works Director Craig Moltzau made the announcement on Tuesday morning. He says cold conditions are driving the frost down underground. Freezing pipes are to blame for the problem. Moltzau says there have been five "freeze-ups" in the village so far.
VILLAGE OF ALMA CENTER:
The Village of Alma Center is also suggesting that its water customers run their water until further notice. Village Clerk Claudia Fields says her office took three reports of "freeze-ups" on Monday.
VILLAGE OF TAYLOR:
The Village of Taylor Water Department sent out a release Tuesday morning asking people there to prevent possible freeze ups, by running a small stream of water (approximately the size of a pencil) at one faucet in their home until further notice. Water bills will be adjusted accordingly.
On Monday, the City of Blair also asked people in the city to run water in a pencil stream until further notice. It says frost has penetrated the ground even further, causing problems for water lines. The city asks people to run at least one faucet in their home to avoid pipes freezing.
VILLAGE OF PIGEON FALLS:
The Village of Pigeon Falls would like to ask that ALL water customers run a continuous stream of water about the size of a pencil from one of their faucets in their home or business until further notice. The duration of extreme cold has caused the frost to reach depths of five to six feet causing water laterals (from the main to the building) to freeze. The movement of water through the water service will prevent most of the water lines from freezing. Customers' will not be billed for the additional water and sewer usage during this time. If you have any questions or concerns please contact the Village office at 715-983-2214.
CITY OF THORP:
Effective immediately and until further notice, all customers of the Thorp Municipal Water Utility should keep a cold water faucet running at all times. The water stream should be as thin as possible to keep a constant flow (no dripping) and should be approximately the diameter of a pencil lead. This emergency order is due to the prolonged frigid temperatures and deepening frost levels, and should prevent water services from freezing.
Village of Colfax residents are urged to prevent possible water lateral freeze ups by running a small stream of water (approximately the size of a pencil) at one faucet in their home until further notice. Water bills will be adjusted accordingly.
Because of the constant temperatures below zero the water temperatures in the Water system have dropped to a point of concern. To avoid frozen water lines the City of Whitehall is requesting that everyone to start running water. This should be the size of a pencil lead. A pencil lead size is just over a drip but an amount that has it running a constant stream. Bills will be adjusted accordingly for this.
Residents are being asked to run a pencil-thin stream of water until further notice.
It is a sign that winter's wrath is far from over. Several Western Wisconsin communities are asking people to keep their water faucets on to help prevent pipes from freezing up.
The public works departments in those places are asking people to keep a pencil-thin stream of water running until further notice.
In Black River Falls, water operators have already fixed about 25 to 30 frozen pipes this year - the most they have ever had to thaw in a winter.
"We get called out during the day, out during the night so it gets pretty taxing," said Casey Engebretson, a Water Operator with Black River Falls Municipal Utilities.
He says this year has been far beyond a normal winter. He is thawing out some houses that he has never been called out to before.
"We had experienced some cold weather 4 or 5 years ago, that was the worst we had seen up until that point and now this is worse," he said.
He and Gene Larson hook up a welder to two sections of the problem pipe. It generates heat, warms up the pipe and eventually frees up the frozen water. It is a process that can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours.
And so to prevent this from happening, several communities are asking people to run a faucet with a pencil-thin stream of water until further notice.
In Black River Falls, several people were just finding out about the request for homes and businesses.
At the Verizon store they turned on their faucet after we stopped by.
"It's been a really rough winter, kind of makes sense I guess," said Kristina Anibas.
Blanch and Calvin Thoreson does not want to take any chances.
"Since we are supposed to do that, we'll follow what they tell us to do," Blanch Thoreson said.
They were surprised this was a record for frozen lines in Black River Falls.
And so, if you live in one of the impacted communities, be sure to remember to keep the water on.