By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - The extreme weather this winter has been playing havoc with the freezing of water pipes to both businesses and residences in the city of Iron Mountain, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said, noted that the Department of Public Works has been 25-30 deep in lines to be thawed out.
"We're getting caught up now, but some of the DPW workers have been working 24 hours a day. We've received many compliments on how the Water Department and DPW is handling these calls and residents have been very understanding with sometimes a more than a day wait," Stanchina said.
He added that the calls are prioritized by businesses first that rely and use water to run their business, residences in the town and third for other businesses that rely on water for hand washing and bathroom use.
Today, DPW workers were getting caught up and working on a frozen sewer line on Carpenter Avenue and Hughitt Street. Stanchina said that it services a small number of customers and had still allowed for use so it wasn't a top priority with the other calls for frozen water lines.
Private contractors have been utilized to assist in thawing lines, and Breitung Township had also provided the city with their welder for a day until they started having more problems.
"Unfortunately, freezing lines are widespread problem and securing private contractors is getting more and more difficult. This week, the city located and obtained an additional welder from an equipment rental company in Kaukauna, Wis. at a cost of $1,500 for one month. This will improve our response time for thawing out frozen water lines," Stanchina said.
In Iron Mountain, he added the city has a permanent winter water let-run list that is used every year. The list was established to prevent shallow water mains/services from freezing in the winter.
"This list has been very effective as we have not had any service lines freeze up for a number of years. This year we had more than 100 lines freeze, and once thawed, they are placed on a let-run. As freeze-ups are called in, we are analyzing the list and activating additional let-runs to prevent additional service lines from freezing. I have retrieved the 1994 let-run, which was the last comparable winter, and this is being used as part of the analysis," Stanchina reported.
But he was also quick to add that a city-wide let-run is not a realistic option and would result in approximately 3.2 million gallons of additional usage a day for a system that currently uses 800,000-900,000 gallons during the winter.
"This would put a strain on the wastewater treatment plant, our aquifer and put the entire city at risk if a fire were to occur," he said. Stanchina noted that if both cities were to put in a let-run city-wide, that would mean 5-6 million gallons of additional usage and couldn't be handled by the wastewater plant.
"Right now the best thing is to thaw lines out as they occur and if trouble areas pop up, evaluate them for let-runs in the future. Even with let-runs, some areas have continued to freeze up this year. The addition of the second welder should help us reduce wait times for lines to be thawed," Stanchina said.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.