Extreme cold causes some buried water pipes to freeze in Trenton

Published: Thursday, Jan. 24 2013 1:24 p.m. MST

Marla Trowbridge, seen in this 2006 file photo explaining photos in her basement workshop where she makes and repairs harnesses and other leatherwork, manages Trenton's water system. This is the worst season she has seen since taking over as water manager in 2006.

August Miller, Deseret News archives

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TRENTON, Cache County — Some homeowners in Trenton are going to extreme measures to keep water flowing through their homes.

The long string of subzero temperatures, with nighttime temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, led to frozen water pipes in the town. While freezing pipes have been common across northern Utah this January, the problem in Trenton is different. Instead of having pipes along exterior walls freeze, the cold is freezing buried pipes.

"We've had water lines frozen under houses, water lines frozen under driveways," Trenton Councilwoman Marla Trowbridge said.

Trowbridge also manages Trenton's water system. This is the worst season she has seen since taking over as water manager in 2006. Five residents have reported buried pipes frozen so far this year, three within a 24-hour period. That's not a trivial number for a town with only 180 connections on its spring-fed system.

Chambers is one of the five residents affected. She woke up Tuesday morning to discover the tap water would not flow.

"I got up and went in to brush my teeth and didn't have any water," Chambers said.

To keep water flowing in her house, a hose is transporting culinary water over the ground to a connection on the side of her home. The water has to flow continuously through the hose to keep it from freezing. The excess flows out a second hose into a nearby field.

Freezing temperatures are forecast to continue in the Cache Valley, leaving Chambers with few options. She won't know if repairs are necessary until the ground thaws.

“We are not worried about that at this point because the pipes in the house aren’t affected,” she said. “The pipes in the house are good. There is concern about the condition of the pipes outside, between our house and the street ... if they’ll break or if we are going to have to dig it up in the spring and see what’s going on there. That’s to be revisited after it warms up.”

Trenton officials are advising its water customers to run their taps at night to avoid frozen pipes and to prevent damage and possible costly repairs down the road. Trowbridge said the city is seeing damage on the personal property side of the meter and legally the city’s responsibility stops at the water meter. 

"I don't mind absorbing some of that cost (of extra water) because I'm just happy to have my hot shower and be able to use the water to do the laundry, do the dishes," Chambers said.

Trowbridge said the town is willing to foot some or all of the overage costs. "The city's willing to say, ‘Look, we're not going to charge you for it for the next month or so until we get out of this cold spell,'" Trowbridge said.

Chambers said she had left the faucet trickling periodically over the last couple of weeks.

“I didn’t that night,” she said with a laugh, “and of course I wish I had.”

Contributing:  Viviane Vo-Duc

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