Area plumbers up to their necks in burst water pipes

Area plumbers up to their necks in burst water pipes

First came the deep freeze. Then the weekend thaw. Then bursting water pipes.

The Crisis Nursery in Urbana was coping with flooding Sunday and Monday due to burst pipes, according to the agency's director of development and communications.

The Department of Public Health's testing lab in Chicago was also hit with flooding Sunday after a water pipe in the building burst.

"We can't confirm that it was weather-related, but it seems likely," said public health spokeswoman Divya Mohan Little.

Three Champaign plumbing businesses said they've been kept busy with calls for help due to frozen and bursting pipes.

"We've had all of our guys out working overtime for the past week and a half," said Travis Clark, the owner of Clark Plumbing & Heating.

Reliable Mechanical and Mike Williams Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning managers also said they saw the uptick in plumbing service calls begin when temperatures hit the single digits.

In some cases, the pipes froze and developed a break during the deep freeze, but that's not apparent until the temperatures warm up enough for the water to thaw, Clark said.

"I don't think a lot of people were prepared," he said. "We've had a lot of mild winters."

Reliable Mechanical Vice President Jeff Clasey said the water freezes in the line and expands as it turns to ice, and that's more likely to cause a burst if that happens in the middle of a line.

"Sometimes the line freezes but does not break. Sometimes it does," he said.

Reliable has been advising callers with frozen pipes to use a hair drier to warm them up, to raise the temperature inside the home or building and to turn on faucets. Once the pipes start to thaw out, the water will start running and help with the thawing process, he said.

"Most customers have kind of been through this and are aware of what to do," he said.

Most vulnerable to freezing are pipes exposed to severe cold, such as outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines and water sprinkler lines. Water supply pipes in unheated inside areas such as basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages or inside kitchen cabinets are also more at risk, according to the American Red Cross.

Progress was made on repairs at the state public health laboratory in Chicago, and it was functioning again Monday, though damages were still being assessed. The flooding affected several areas of the lab and pieces of equipment.

This is one of three state public health labs, with the others in Springfield and Carbondale. The Chicago lab does testing for environmental hazards, arboviruses, pathogens, newborn screening, novel diseases and potential biological threat agents, according to the IDPH.

Word to the wise

How to prevent water pipes from bursting? Among the steps the Red Cross recommends:

-- Keep heat circulating where pipes are vulnerable. For example, leave cabinet doors under the sink open and add a space heater in an unheated area of the home.

-- Keep the thermostat set to higher temperatures both day and night and if you are going to be away for a time.

-- When the temperatures are very low, leave a trickle of water running at the sinks in unheated areas.

-- As you begin to thaw out frozen pipes, leave the faucets open so water can trickle out as the frozen area melts.

Sections (3):News, Local, Weather
Topics (1):Environment

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
pattsi wrote on January 09, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Adding to the list of cautions since I have mopped a kitchen--discovered the water in the washing machine P trap froze and thus plugged the drain so the washing water had to go somewhere out ofthe stem pipe--all over the kitchen. Just be certain the P trap of this type of equipment is not in a location where freezing temps can enter.