MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

January 10, 2014

City battling water breaks

Cold, thaw cause lines to snap around town

Sub-freezing temperatures and a subsequent thaw caused water lines of all sizes to break this week.

Muskogee Public Works Department crews responded to 20 weather-related line breaks since Monday, said interim Muskogee City Manager Roy Tucker.

Two major line breaks occurred Thursday.

An 8-inch water main broke at Fourth Street between Broadway and Okmulgee Avenue. Equipment operator Keith Clairday said the break was reported at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. The break broke the pavement on Fourth. Tucker said Thursday the line was repaired.

Thursday afternoon, crews responded to a break in a 24-inch water main north of Iola Street on Main Street.

“It’s one right after another,” Clairday said as a track hoe dug into the mud.

Total cost of the 20 line breaks could be around $10,000, Tucker said.

“But we won’t know until the aftermath,” Tucker said, adding that cost estimate “is very difficult to come up with.”

Muskogee city spokeswoman Kimbra Scott attributed the line breaks to the week’s “freeze and thaw cycle, along with an aging infrastructure.”

 Temperatures in Muskogee dipped to 3 degrees and did not get above 18 Monday. On Thursday, temperatures reached the mid-30s.

Scott said the water lines are made up of various materials.

Commercial plumbers also have been busy after the freeze.

Esterlene Drew, secretary at Drew Plumbing said the company handled 30 to 40 calls Tuesday. Daily calls since have gone down to around 20, she said.

“We normally get 20 a day,” Drew said. “The problem is that the more temperatures go up (after a freeze), the more pipes break.”

Frank Macario, field operations director for the Tahlequah Water Department, said cold weather and changing temperatures affect water lines.

“The colder the ground gets, the deeper the cold goes into the ground,” Macario said. “That causes the soil to contract and it causes the lines to fail.”

 He said water lines also could break “when it warms up in the spring.”

“If the lines are padded well, it would happen less,” Macario said.

The shifting ground has more of an effect on older, more rigid lines, he said.

“Usually PVC is not so bad,” he said, adding that more problems occur with pipes that are cast iron or Transite, a combination of asbestos and cement.

Macario said Tahlequah crews have not had to handle many city lines. However, earlier this week, he said crews were busy with customers who had frozen pipes.

He said the customer would call a plumber, then call the city, “we’d go out and turn the water off for them.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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