News Local

Extreme cold weather procedure OKed

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Postmedia image

Postmedia image

As the snow readies to fly, Barrie's water supply will get some protection from freezing.

The city's extreme cold weather procedure would allow water to be run continuously through pipes to prevent freezing, at no additional cost to property owners.

Water/sewer bills would be adjusted to remove charges for the extra water run to keep the pipes from freezing.

Customers would be billed based on their average historical water consumption during the same time period.

This procedure includes house-to-house connections if the pipes cannot be thawed.

But city water operations staff will determine which customers can take advantage of the extreme cold weather procedure.

Staff have compiled a comprehensive list of residential properties which have had frozen pipes in the past.

Triggers for the procedure include ground frost levels of 1.7 metres or deeper or if city staff deem the drinking water supply could be cut off during extremely cold weather.

At-risk residents will be advised to run their water in order to avoid frozen pipes.

Customers who run water to prevent freezing without instruction from city staff, however, will be charged the full bill.

Barrie's extreme cold weather procedure just formalizes policy already in place.

During the winter of 2014-2015, water/sewer bills to more than 300 city accounts were reduced by a total of $230,000.

Last winter was much milder and there were no frozen services.

Environment Canada is predicting a winter somewhere in between for 2016-2017, with the last of January, February and early March the toughest times.

There are three main causes of frozen water services.

First is proximity to culverts and sewers. This is the most prevalent, as cold air can easily penetrate through catch basin and outflow openings. Proximity to high-pressure gas lines and insufficient depth of cover are the two other main causes.

While the extreme cold weather procedure could cost the city money in water/sewer revenues, it could save in repair bills.

Due to the 2014-15 winter, the city spent approximately $800,000 to fix frozen pipe problems.

Contracted services were used to thaw, excavate and repair frozen pipes, while hoses, fittings and equipment were bought in so city crews could set up temporary house-to-house connections. Material costs were for thousands of meters of hose for the potable water and trench repair that spring - sod, asphalt, curb and sidewalk.

No homes were left without access to potable water for more than 24 hours that winter.

Barrie councillors gave initial approval Monday to the extreme cold weather procedure.

City council will consider final approval at its Dec. 5 meeting. 

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