With five water main breaks and 20 frozen water services, it has been a busy week for city crews.
The City of Brandon is dealing with a higher number of frozen pipe issues this winter, due to the exceptionally cold temperatures.
"We’re very busy. There’s definitely more than usual and more than previous years. Numbers keep increasing over the last few days," said Pam Penner, the city’s manager of public works. "The water mains and the water services are all kind of reacting the same way, not faring so well over a cold winter."
Now that warmer temperatures are here, Penner expects a few more problems to come when the ground thaws.
"It’s the nature of the beast. Unfortunately, it all hits at once," she said. "I think we’re managing, everyone’s definitely working pretty hard to get things caught up here. I think our turnaround has been … within 24 hours."
As of last week, there were 194 taps open at locations around the city, largely older areas of Brandon with shallow water service mains to the house. Those residents have been asked to run a small stream of water to prevent their water services from freezing.
"We go to those locations and just ask them to keep just a slow drip going, not a full open tap by any means," Penner said. "Just enough to keep the water flowing so that it doesn’t have a chance to freeze up."
Meanwhile, in Winnipeg, hundreds of homes are without water because of frozen pipes due to the extreme cold. The city is warning it could be weeks before the taps are flowing again.
On Monday, Winnipeg crews were also dealing with a massive water main break at the underpass south of McPhillips Street Station.
Penner said Brandon doesn’t have nearly as many frozen pipe issues as Winnipeg, and thanks to the smaller size of the Wheat City, crews are able to identify problem areas early on.
"We know where those locations are and we’re able to maintain them," she said. "Every fall we know that certain houses need to keep the taps open."
Brandon had a particularly bad year for frozen pipes back in 2003, so the following year a program was launched to lower about 30 water services deeper into the ground every year.
The program started with approximately 400 properties on the list, and as of 2013 that number was down to about 100.
"The City of Brandon is definitely lowering those water numbers through a lot of preventative maintenance and we’re being proactive," Penner said. "So although it seems like a lot, over the last 10 years we’ve definitely reduced it."
As of late February, only 18 locations had experienced frozen water services and were thawed by city staff. Last week that number was up to 80, and yesterday Penner estimated the number of frozen pipes thawed this winter was up to more than 100.