Extreme Temperatures Cause Record Number Of Water Main Breaks

Frost Has Extended As Far As Seven Feet Below The Soil This Winter

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Deeper-than-normal frost under Wisconsin roads has led to a record number of water main breaks in parts of Wisconsin.

Water main breaks during winter are normal, but this year communities across the state are seeing more than ever before. The uptick is because the extremely cold winter has pushed frost deeper below roadways, which don’t have insulating blankets of snow.

Randy Reeg, Thorp city administrator, said it’s unreal. “We’ve heard from all of our neighboring communities as well that this is the deepest frost that anyone recalls ever seeing,” said Reeg. “It’s deep enough that it’s actually surrounding water mains in many Instances.”

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He said frost as deep as seven feet has caused a record 18 water main breaks this year. This week, school was cancelled in Thorp after two catastrophic breaks drained the water tower, causing taps to go dry.

Neillsville has had nine water mains crack, with one leading to a boil water advisory.

Public Works Director Dave Flynn says another big headache is frozen pipes leading to homes. “Normally if you put a water line down six or seven feet, you never have a problem with it,” said Flynn. “Well, this is the first year we’ve ever had problems with them.”

The Wisconsin Rural Water Association says there could be even more pipes breaking in spring as frost recedes and the ground shifts.

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