WMU seeing rise in line breaks, offers cold weather tips

Winchester Municipal Utilities employees worked in freezing temperatures Thursday morning to repair a six-inch service line on Winn Avenue.

WMU General Manager Mike Flynn said the repair was one of many calls the crew has had this week due to inclement weather. 

Flynn said no customers were affected by the repairs Thursday, but he expected similar calls if the weather continues.

Flynn said WMU sees an uptick in service line repairs in freezing temperatures because service lines break ground as the ground moves in changing temperatures. Cast iron pipes are especially prone to breaking ground in inclement weather, Flynn said.

“If there’s ground moving, you can expect leaks in various places,” he said.

WMU also advises customers to take steps to protect their homes against freezing water lines such as insulating pipes to protect them from cold air.

Flynn said when pipes freeze, it is typically near where the water enters the house on an outside wall. 

When temperatures fall below 20 degrees, homeowners can leave their faucets dripping so water continues flowing through the pipes instead of sitting. If the faucet is against an exterior wall, opening the cabinets beneath it will help ensure the flow of warmer air near the pipes, according to WMU’s website.

For those whose homes include a crawl space, make sure any air vents beneath the house are closed off preventing cold air from entering the crawl space and freezing the pipes underneath.

If pipes do freeze, there are several steps people can take to address the situation and avoid property damage.

First, Flynn said WMU advises people to know where their water cutoff valve is. Valves are typically located on the wall where water enters the house or near the washing machine or water heater.

In the event a pipe bursts, shutting off the water to the house can prevent severe property damage.

Opening the closest faucet to the frozen pipe will help alleviate pressure if it begins to expand.

Frozen pipes can thaw, but customers must do it carefully. Gentle heat from a light bulb, hairdryer on the warm setting or heat tape are useful thawing methods.

Harsher forms of heat, such as anything that produces an open flame, can run the risk of thawing the pipe too quickly and causing it to burst.

If a customer cannot locate the frozen pipe, the problem may be with the water meter.

Flynn said if any customers think they have a leak or have any issues or questions, it’s best to call WMU at 744-5434. More cold weather tips are also available on WMU’s website.