The winters of 2013/14 and 2014/15 were extremely cold in Ontario; in fact, February 2015 was the coldest month ever recorded in London. Large numbers of frozen water services were experienced. Over the course of these two winters London experienced 348 and 531 frozen service calls, respectively.
When frozen services such as these are experienced, the response effort by London’s Water Operations Division is complicated by the fact that they rapidly escalate within a relatively short time frame of 2 to 3 weeks.
Learning from our past experience, and to help alleviate future frozen water service issues, a Response Plan has been developed. It contains 4 key areas: Education, Notification, Prevention, and Remediation.
- Information regarding frozen water services, causes, and prevention, including a “what-to-do” section for customers experiencing water loss.
- Every customer who experienced a frozen service during 2014 or 2015 has been placed onto a contact list. Customers on this list will receive a letter in January outlining London’s remediation strategy and interim prevention measures.
- Standard design specifications for watermains and services have been revised, requiring a deeper depth of burial and enhanced insulation when in proximity to storm sewers and Private Drain Connections (PDCs).
- Staff will be monitoring temperatures, frost penetration depths, and watermain break activity to determine if the potential for frozen water services is developing.
- If a threat of freezing services develops, customers with a previously frozen service (not yet rehabilitated through the work plan), will be notified by staff to continuously run a pencil-sized stream of water, usually from a laundry tap. Customers will be notified to stop the flow once the threat subsides. Notification to start and stop the flow will come directly from the City’s Water Service Area by telephone.
- Where customers are instructed to leave a tap running, they will only be charged the minimum monthly water and sewer bill. They will not be responsible for consumptive charges during the period in which they have been instructed to run their water. Only those customers specifically notified by the City’s Water Service Area will be granted this exemption.
- A prioritized work plan has been developed to excavate and rehabilitate every service that froze in 2014 and 2015.
- As of December 2015, 187 services have been rehabilitated based on this prioritization (51 in 2014; 136 in 2015).