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Prolonged, extreme cold temperatures are having an impact on the City’s watermains and water services causing delays in response times to service calls related to the cold weather.

Toronto has been experiencing unprecedented, sub-zero temperatures for an extended period of time. Water pipes are buried below the frost line (the frost line is approximately four feet below the surface), but unusually cold weather is freezing the ground below the frost line, causing watermains to break more frequently and some water services, the underground pipes that brings water to homes, to freeze.

The City has hired contractors to help Toronto Water staff thaw frozen underground water services, and is making arrangements to purchase more thawing equipment.  Additional staff are being reassigned to assist with frozen pipes and watermain breaks. Municipalities throughout the GTA are also experiencing a significant increase in watermain breaks and freezing pipes so we are unable to ask for assistance from our local neighbours.

The City is asking residents for their patience, as it deals with extremely high volumes of service calls related to the cold weather.

Fro, January 1 to February 28 the City has repaired 772 watermain breaks, received 1,839 no water calls and has repaired 438 leaking water services. In 2013, there were approximately 1,500 watermain breaks recorded for the whole year.

How to help prevent underground water services from freezing after repair

  • If your underground water service has been repaired by the City, please ensure you keep a tap open for a trickle of water to flow so there is some movement in the water pipes.

Tips to avoid frozen pipes in your home

  • While the temperature is well below freezing, consider leaving a tap open enough for a trickle of water to flow so there is some movement in the water pipes that might be vulnerable to freezing.
  • If your water pipes are attached to an uninsulated outside wall, remove the clamp from the pipes and gently pull the pipes away from the wall and wrap with insulation.
  • Insulate all exposed outside water pipes with specially designed foam pipe covers, available at building supply or home improvement stores.
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen, bathroom and laundry cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • If you are leaving your home for an extended period of time, you can shut off the main service valve in your basement and open all taps to drain the water out of your plumbing lines to prevent them from freezing.
  • Commercial water customers need to prepare for cold nights as well. Protect fire lines by wrapping all lines exposed to cold.

Precautions/steps to take to thaw water pipes in your home

Precautions

  • Do not use a torch with an open flame to thaw pipes, as this is a fire hazard.
  • Ensure you know the location of your master water shut-off valve. The frozen pipe may be broken and when the water in it thaws it will leak. If the pipe is broken, you will need to shut off the water in your house until the pipe is repaired.

Steps to thaw a frozen pipe

  • Turn on a tap in the basement, preferably the cold water faucet in the laundry room.
  • Use a blow dryer to warm the suspected frozen pipe for one or two hours. Check blow dryer regularly to ensure it does not overheat.
  • Place a warm towel or rag around the suspected frozen pipe.
  • Depending on the outside temperature and the extent of freezing within the pipe, the thawing process could take between one and six hours.

For more information visit:  www.toronto.ca/water