Frozen pipes and sewer lines continue to plague Moab homes, businesses
by Steve Kadel
staff writer
Jan 31, 2013 | 4681 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Markle Insurance office at 235 Williams Way in Moab was extensively damaged Jan. 17 when a bathroom pipe burst and water tore a hole in the wall. Prolonged sub-zero temperatures have caused plumbing problems throughout Grand County. Photo by Steve Kadel
The Markle Insurance office at 235 Williams Way in Moab was extensively damaged Jan. 17 when a bathroom pipe burst and water tore a hole in the wall. Prolonged sub-zero temperatures have caused plumbing problems throughout Grand County. Photo by Steve Kadel
Lisa Carter and Carly Williams were out of water for 13 days as of Tuesday in the Moab home they share.

They’ve become resourceful while enduring the situation caused by frozen water pipes.

“Neighbors have been helpful,” Carter said. “I have a little dolly so I run around with these 5-gallon bottles picking up water. When I go out with the truck I take water bottles with me.”

Neighbors have helped by inviting the women for dinner and a shower.

“You take less showers and if it were summer, it would be like camping,” Carter said. “You could shower outdoors.”

She’s thankful they have electricity, and heat from a gas furnace and wood stove.

The problem began with a frozen meter buried about 21 inches in the ground, Carter said. A crew from the city of Moab thawed the pipe from the street to her meter, but Carter said the city will not thaw pipes that are located on private property, such as the water line that runs from the meter to the house.

“It would work, but they don’t want to be liable for something going wrong with the pipe,” Carter said.

She and Williams hired a welder to do that job, but his equipment wasn’t adequate, Carter said.

Now they’re in a waiting game until temperatures warm up. And they are not alone.

Moab City Public Works Director Jeff Foster said about 125 residences, and a few businesses, have had similar problems in the last two weeks. The culprit is the longest stretch of severely cold weather in 25 years, he said.

“We’ve had such a hard freeze that it’s frozen two or two and a half feet down into the ground,” Foster said. “That takes more than a few days to thaw.”

He said Monday that there were still about nine residences with pipes the city has not been able to thaw. Also, sewer lines were frozen in another four or five homes, Foster said. He said he has heard stories of sewage backing up in some houses during the cold spell.

People have had varied responses to the lack of water. Foster said some have told him they’re going to be out of town so don’t make their house a priority. Others have been downright cranky, he said.

The problem isn’t just water lines from the street to individual meters, and from meters to houses.

“Some main water lines are breaking,” Foster said. “The ruptures are mostly on 400 East. We had a main water line break by the Pack Creek bridge.”

He said the water is so deep near the bridge that crews have not been able to find a way to attack the problem.

“We’re investigating the best way to go,” Foster said.

The ruptured line is vital because it is the backup water source for Grand County High School, WabiSabi and Dave’s Corner Market, Foster said.

Mark Sovine, manager of the Grand Water and Sewer Service District, said its customers are experiencing the same problems. His office has received 75 calls recently reporting frozen meters, sewer lines or water lines.

Some are still frozen, he said. The district has been trying to provide water by creating temporary lines to homes from nearby fire hydrants or a neighboring house’s meter, Sovine said.

Although temperatures have warmed in recent days, he said more trouble probably lies ahead. That’s because as pipes thaw, some will show signs of having broken during the intense cold, according to Sovine.

“The next couple of weeks will be hectic,” he said.

And the problems are not isolated to residential areas. The Markle Insurance office is among the hardest-hit businesses. Owner Dorothy Markle said a copper tubing pipe on a restroom wall froze and then burst, shooting water so forcefully that it made a 6-inch by 8-inch hole in the opposite wall.

That happened Jan. 17 and the office still had equipment covered by plastic as of Monday.

“The damage is very, very expensive,” said Markle, who added that she could not yet estimate the cost.

There were 3 inches of standing water throughout the building, she said, and the company’s computer towers were all located on the floor. It is still unknown whether copy and fax machines will work again, Markle said.

“The telephone company is coming in from Monticello to change all the connections in floor plugs,” she said. “We’ll know then if we’ve lost the new phone system.”

Despite the problems, Markle said the staff has been able to keep the business open by operating from home with a limited presence in the main office. She said customers “have been great” about the inconvenience.

Markle herself is staying positive about the incident.

“I do have very good insurance with a low deductible,” she said. “And we didn’t lose any records.”

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