BRISTOL - With frigid temperatures here for the foreseeable future, city officials expect a recent wave of water main breaks in Bristol to finally come to a halt.
“You generally get them when the ground is moving,” said Rob Longo, superintendent of the Bristol Water Department. “I wouldn’t expect to see any more unless we get weather in the 60s and we’re wearing shorts. You probably won’t see another one until March, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”
In December alone, there were six reported water main breaks in Bristol. Longo said that number is most definitely abnormal given the time of year. When the temperatures drop and ground starts to freeze there’s less movement. This generally prevents such a thing as water main breaks from happening.
The recent surge of breaks has left the water department somewhat baffled as to what may have caused them.
“There was no pattern as to where they occurred,” Longo said.
The six breaks were reported in the area of Pleasant View Avenue, Constance Lane and Sycamore, South, Wolcott and Divinity streets.
“Other towns had similar issues,” Longo continued, adding that a reported earthquake in the greater New Britain area in December could have been one factor that contributed to the increase.
With frigid temperatures not expected to leave anytime soon, it’s anticipated that main breaks will not be a major issue during the winter months. Extreme cold weather becomes a problem for water mains when the ground gets so cold that the main could freeze. But Longo said water mains in Bristol are between four and a half to five feet underground, so it would “take weeks” of temperatures in the teens or below for an issue to arise.
The bigger problem facing residents is protecting water meters and pipes in their homes from freezing, Longo advised. The forecast for the Bristol area expects temperatures to rise into the upper 20s until they drop to single digits on Friday and Saturday. This kind of weather makes frozen pipes a very real possibility.
Just last week, a pipe burst in a vacant home on Hill Street and the second floor flooded. Longo said there have been numerous other residents who have called about frozen pipes since a cold spell hit the area last week.
The best way to protect water meters and pipes is to make sure the area where they enter the home - typically in a basement or crawl space - is properly insulated and safe from drafts. Residents who aren’t quite sure where this is in their home can call the water department at 860-582-7431 and ask for assistance over the phone.
Once a pipe freezes, residents will generally find out when trying to run a faucet. Longo said using a space heater is one very simple, yet effective way to thaw a frozen pipe. But when doing this, he advises, the pipe should be tended to frequently in the event that the water that froze expanded so much that it damaged the pipe. The thawing process could lead to an uncontrollable stream of water pouring out if this happens.
Customers thawing their own pipes should always be aware of where they can shut their water off, Longo said. Those who don’t feel comfortable thawing a pipe themselves should contact a private plumber, as the water department does not assist with frozen pipes.
“The key is prevention,” Longo said. “The biggest thing is to be vigilant.”
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or firstname.lastname@example.org.