Town helps residents unfreeze their water lines

BY Molly Congdon
Gazette Reporter
CLIFTON PARK — Every day revolves heavily around our accessibility to water. We shower, are constantly washing our hands, cleaning dishes or even just making coffee. There aren’t many things that are worse than not having running water in your home.

The frigid temperatures this winter caused many Capital Region residents to go several days without running water as a result of frozen pipes.

Clifton Park was no exception and a couple dozen residents required assistance.

It’s been quite some time since frozen water pipes plagued the area. “We had somewhere between 25 and 30 frozen services; most of those were frozen under the road,” Water Authority Administrator Don Austin said. “We haven’t seen frozen water services under the road since 1993.”

“The Clifton Park Water Authority personnel triage each issue,” Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said. “Once they’re able to locate the problem, sometimes they’re able to find blockage on the public line and in other instances they find a frozen pipe that’s the homeowner’s responsibility, but in either case their goal is to get the water moving as quickly as possible and figure out whose responsibility it is later. The key is to alleviate the issue as soon as possible to ensure that residents aren’t without water for any length of time.”

The “responsibility” Barrett cites is financial responsibility: Frozen pipes can be costly proposition. Who pays depends on whether the problem is under public or private land.
The frost line reached as much as 5 feet deep during these cold months. “The areas that are most susceptible to freezing are the ones where the lines run under pavement,” Barrett said. “When a line runs under your yard, the ground acts as an insulator from the snow.”

“We have a machine made by the company Magikist; it’s a pipe thawer,” Austin said. “It has a water tank on it that has an immersion heater in it so it heats the water up and then it has a tube on a reel that we feed into the pipe and it is constantly feeding hot water into the pipe.”

On the end of the tube is a nozzle that sprays water forward and backward to propel and melt through the ice. As they continue to keep feeding the hot water in, the water that comes back into the tank reheats itself. “Eventually we work our way through the piece of ice that’s in the service line,” Austin said. “It usually takes about two to three hours per service, depending on how difficult it is.”

The sunshine of spring may bring with it more than just the buzzing of bees and the blooming of flowers. “In a couple of instances they will need to make some repairs,” Barrett said. “It’s not major or widespread but some additional work will be done when the warmer weather arrives.”