Cold weather leads to water woes for many
by Briana Webster
Jan 08, 2014 | 1507 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Street department workers in Cordova spent three hours Monday morning fixing a water main break on First Street and Chambers Street. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
Street department workers in Cordova spent three hours Monday morning fixing a water main break on First Street and Chambers Street. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
Not having any source of heat during this cold spell in Alabama can be a major problem, but not having any water can be just as detrimental.

Winds and rain brought a massive chill Sunday night that swept across Walker County and large portions of the state. The cold is expected to remain in our area until around noon today, with highs finally surpassing the freezing point.

Donald Steele, manager of the Curry Water Authority, said a water main broke around midnight Monday on Redmill/Saragossa Road. Steele said the break could have caused driving hazards had it not been called in.

“Where it was at, there was a culvert there, but it was a small one and was partially blocked, I think. It couldn’t drain very well, so the water built up and was running across the road,” Steele said. “... We were out there until probably about 4 in the morning, but the Saragossa Volunteer Fire Department came out there and blocked the road until we got our stuff and our equipment and we blocked the road off until we got the leak fixed. Then District 2 county guys came out and put some sand down, and we brought some crusher run — it’s a fine gravel like the state uses — and then we just coated the whole area with that before we left.”

Fortunately, there were no accidents. The road was blocked and traffic was redirected as needed until the main was fixed and the road was cleared and sanded. Steele gave some advice on what customers should do to avoid freezing and bursting pipes.

“The best thing to do, if they’re not sure and don’t feel safe that possibly something could freeze, would be to leave the water running. That’s the best thing you could do. Open your cabinets up under your sinks and just leave the water running,” Steele said. “[For outside pipes] anything like that they definitely need to wrap it and cover it as best you can. A lot of times, with the temperatures we’ve been having and where it stays below freezing like it has been for three days, sometimes with that wind, things will freeze that wouldn’t normally freeze.” 

Other reports from local municipalities stated incidents such as a delay in garbage pickup in the city of Cordova because a garbage truck was frozen, and the city of Dora was unable to run its garbage route Tuesday due to the severely cold weather. A water main also broke in Cordova on Monday, but there was no confirmation about whether it was weather related.

The largest water source in the county, Jasper Water Works and Sewer Board, serves more than 10,000 customers.

Jason Langley, manager at the Jasper Water Works and Sewer Board, said thankfully the City of Jasper hasn’t received any reports of broken or frozen pipes as of press time Tuesday; however, Langley said that is not his main concern.

“Our biggest problem will probably be Wednesday evening and Thursday when it starts warming up. The ground freezing really doesn’t bother us; it hurts the customers because a lot them have shallow buried services from the meter to the house or they don’t have good underpinning and things of that nature,” Langley said. “But for us, it’ll be worse when it starts thawing out and gets back up in the 40’s because that’s when the ground starts shifting, and we have a lot of cast iron mains here in the old part of town, but that’s what we’re anticipating anyway. We’re prepared; we’ve got two crews.

“Normally, we use one standby crew at night, so they’re on call. In other words, they carry radios with them so if something happens, they go out,” he continued. “So, for the next three or four days we’ll have two crews on standby.” 

He said they are monitoring the tanks and continue to stay aware of what’s going on. Customers within the county have called both Jasper and Curry waterworks, but the majority of the issues stem from frozen pipes at the different residences.

“Our goal is to keep everybody in water. What really hurts us this time of year is people keeping their water running. ... It’s bad for us because it wastes water,” Langley said. “Our water use for the area has gone way up. There’s a lot of people doing that right now. That’s our bigger concern, believe it or not, than the bad weather itself is trying to keep up with the demand. ... I hope the worst is behind us on that part about the freezing.”