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Cold temps freeze underground pipes in N. Utah town

By Dave Cawley | Posted - Jan 24th, 2013 @ 8:13am

TRENTON — A small town in Cache Valley is offering to give residents a break on their water bills due to problems associated with the on-going cold snap.

The long string of days below freezing, with nighttime temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, led to frozen water pipes in the town of Trenton.

While freezing pipes have been common across northern Utah this January, the problem in Trenton is different. Instead of having pipes along exterior walls freeze, the cold is freezing buried pipes.

"We've had water lines frozen under houses, water lines frozen under driveways," Trenton council member Marla Trowbridge said.

Trowbridge also manages Trenton's water system. This is the worst season she has seen since taking over as water manager in 2006. Five residents have reported buried pipes frozen so far this year. That's not a trivial number for a town with only 180 connections on its spring-fed system.

Trowbridge said she's sure the freezing is taking place between city meters and the homes.

"Where we're seeing the damage is on the personal property side of the meter, and legally the city, its responsibility stops at that water meter," Trowbridge said.

I don't mind absorbing some of that cost (of extra water) because I'm just happy to have my hot shower.

–Christy Chambers, resident

Christy Chambers is one of the five residents affected. She awoke one morning this week to discover the tap water would not flow.

"I got up and went in to brush my teeth and didn't have any water," Chambers said.

Freezing temperatures are forecast to continue in Cache Valley, leaving Chambers with few options. She won't know if repairs are necessary until the ground thaws.

In the meantime, a hose is transporting culinary water over the ground to a connection on the side of her home. The water has to flow continuously through the hose to keep it from freezing, as well. The excess flows out a second hose into a nearby field.

"I don't mind absorbing some of that cost (of extra water) because I'm just happy to have my hot shower and be able to use the water do the laundry, do the dishes," Chambers said.

Trenton is advising the rest of its water customers to run their taps at night to avoid frozen pipes. Trowbridge said the town is willing to foot some or all of the overage costs.

"The city's willing to say, ‘Look, we're not going to charge you for it for the next month or so until we get out of this cold spell,'" Trowbridge said.

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