By Carolyn Roy
The message to homeowners and residents getting ready for another hard freeze is be proactive, prepare your pipes and check them regularly until warmer weather returns. That’s a better option than dripping faucets. Rusty Reeves is deputy director and training coordinator for the La. Rural Water Assn.(LRWA), an agency that provides training and technical assistance to rural water system operators. While many property owners prefer to “drip” their faucets, Reeves says that practice causes a huge strain on water systems. “The better answer is to prepare your pipes.” Reeves lives in Allen Parish but said the problems that occur there are similar to those around the state.
The normal water consumption there is 200,000-250,000 gallons per day. During the recent freeze, consumption jumped to over 600,000 gallons because of customers dripping their faucets. “It takes a toll on the well and the treatment process because it runs three times longer during a freeze,” Reeves says. Eugean Garner operates the Chee Chee and Goldonna water systems. During the most recent freeze, consumption in the Chee Chee system jumped from an average of 20,000 gallons per day to 65,000.
In 24 hours, the consumption in the Goldonna system jumped from 100,000 gallons to 200,000 gallons. Garner says being proactive made a difference in the two systems he operates. Before the freeze, he urged camp and homeowners to turn off their meters and monitor their pipes. Garner says system operators have gained much knowledge through the years, especially after a hard freeze in the early 1980s when tremendous damage occurred. He reported no major problems last week.
A check of Parish water systems indicates that no major problems occurred. Eddie Jackson runs the Powhatan Water system and says, “We’re in good shape. We had no major problems. The system was redone about five years ago with a state grant.” Bo Messick operates the Fairview Union system and reported no major problems and business as usual. Reeves says the LRWA offers three classes a year for system operators. They are urged to develop a plan of action for emergency responses.
“We try to communicate to our customers what they should do. Communicate and conserve,” Reeves says. He urges that consumers closely monitor their property, especially barns and other buildings that they may not frequent. Pipes can often run three times longer if they burst and thaw when the owners are not home.
Plumbers have been busy during the recent cold snap because when the temperature plummets, the risk of pipes freezing goes up. In fact, frozen pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage during frigid weather and can cause thousands in water damage. The pipes that freeze most frequently are those in such unheated interior spaces as basements, attics, and garages. But pipes that run through your cabinets or that are against an exterior wall are also at risk. Here’s some advice from the American Red Cross on how to prevent your pipes from freezing as well as how to thaw them if they do. How to prevent pipes from freezing Once the temperature starts dropping outside, you should take measures inside to keep your pipes warm and water running. Some may go against your better instincts of conserving water and heat but the extra expense is nothing compared to a hefty repair bill. Here’s what to do.
* Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
* Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. (If you have small children, be sure to remove any harmful cleaners and household chemicals.)
* Let the cold water drip from a faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe—even at a trickle—helps prevent pipes from freezing.
* Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night.
* If you plan to be away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
* For the long term, add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in those areas. How to thaw your pipes If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include those against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation. If the water is still running, you can take the following steps but if you suspect a more serious problem, call a plumber.
* Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
* Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
* Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
* If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.