UPDATE: Schofield officials want residents to run a pencil-size stream of water until further notice, even if the weather improves. Weston officials are notifying specific areas where they want the water to run constantly, and the rest of the village should run a full stream of cold water 2 times a day for 5 minutes each time as a precaution, until further notice.
UNDATED (WSAU) -- Several communities are asking residents to leave the water running a little to help prevent pipes from freezing. Yesterday, three more communities asked residents to leave the water running.
Mosinee Director of Public Works Kevin Breit says they would like everyone in the city to run water. “We would like all of our customers to run a stream of water in their house approximately the size of a pencil or pen, quarter inch or a little bit larger diameter. the reason being, the frost in the streets we’re seeing is down six to seven feet, which is around the water pipes.”
Breit says Mosinee customers will not have to worry about increased water bills while the water keeps flowing. “We will take an average of each customer’s bill and just bill them an average bill. They will not be charged any more or any extra for the water they’re using for this.”
Mosinee will have to pump more water, which is expensive, but Breit says in cold conditions like this, running the water actually saves the city and the residents money. “For us to go out and try and thaw services, and the inconvenience of having people froze up, plus overtime to thaw services, that’s more expensive than letting some water go down.”
Once the extreme cold weather ends, Breit says you should keep running the water because the risk of freezing isn’t over. “Even if the weather seems nice, don’t turn it off until we advise you to. It might seem nice outside, but that frost is still down between six and seven feet and it’s still around the pipe.”
The Village of Weston and the Village of Whiting are also asking residents to run a pencil-sized stream of water until further notice. Rhinelander began doing this earlier this week.
Not every community is the same when it comes to handling frozen water lines. For example, in Stevens Point, the service line from the city’s water main running through private property is the responsibility of the property owner. Stevens Point Public Utilities Director Joel Lemke says they do not have a citywide order to run water, but some residents make that decision on their own. “There are people that choose to, if they know that their line is going to freeze up, for instance, it goes under their driveway or under an area where the snow gets removed regularly, they’ll choose to run it so that they don’t run the risk of that excavation cost or calling a plumber or anything during the winter.”
Lemke says they generally don’t ask residents to run the water except where an older pipe may not be buried as deep or the frost is traditionally deeper. “There are a few cases where we have them run it on our behalf, and that obviously doesn’t cost them anything, and then there are those cases where they run it to prevent cost on their side. In that case, they’re choosing to take on the cost of paying for the water.”
If in doubt, check with your local water utility or municipal office to find out if you should be running your water or not. You might also ask where the municipality’s responsibility ends and the homeowner’s responsibility begins when it comes to utility services.