Extreme temperatures break water mains, freeze lines

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Concrete, asphalt and a 43-inch frost line made conditions difficult for city crews digging to fix a broken water main last week on E. Chicago Blvd., near Division Street. The westbound lane of Chicago Blvd. was closed during the repairs. A total of 17 water main breaks have occurred in Tecumseh this winter compared to three last year. Photo by Mickey Alvarado.

In his 26 years working at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, Supt. Todd Amstutz says “I’ve never seen a winter like this.”

Snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures haven’t made life easy for the department and its crew of seven, of which five have been battling 14 frozen water lines and 17 water main breaks this winter. Of the 17 water main breaks, nine occurred in a five-day period. Last year, only three water main breaks were recorded the entire season.

Weather conditions have been tough and most living in the area don’t have much good to say about it, but Amstutz gives kudos to his workers. “I have a phenomenal crew. They don’t complain,” he said.

An example of the tough fight against the weather occurred last week when a water main broke on E. Chicago Blvd. near the intersection of Division Street.

Difficulty arose when an outdated map of the main’s location left it difficult to find. Crews had to tunnel and cut through two layers of concrete and asphalt to find the water main.

The repair project forced a detour of westbound boulevard traffic which was diverted to Rogers Hwy., Russell Road and Maumee Street. The project lasted three days, from February 25 through February 27 at a cost of approximately $2,000, according to Amstutz.

A silver lining in the fight to keep the water flowing was the recent purchase of a new jackhammer attachment for use with the city’s Bobcat construction vehicle. “It’s made a big difference in fixing water mains and already, it’s paid for itself,” Amstutz said.

The jackhammer is helping to cut through this year’s 43-inch frost line. Under grass and snow the frost line is only about three inches, Amstutz said, while exposed concrete and asphalt, together with traffic, drives the frost line deeper under roadways.

“We’ll probably be finding areas of frost into June this year,” Amstutz said.

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