Frozen pipe wait frustrates Winnipeg business

The City of Winnipeg is trying to ease the frustrations of more than 1,200 Winnipeg property owners, including some business owners, who have been waiting days or weeks for crews to thaw their frozen pipes.

Number of properties without running water grows to 1,230 on Monday

Fastfrate Transport has been without running water for about a month, and staff say the City of Winnipeg has told them there's nothing it can do. 2:05

The City of Winnipeg is trying to ease the frustrations of more than 1,200 Winnipeg property owners, including some business owners, who have been waiting days or weeks for crews to thaw their frozen pipes.

As of Monday afternoon, 1,230 homes and businesses are on the city's waiting list for pipe thawing, up from 1,193 on Sunday. About 730 have had their water service restored.

Of the properties that have frozen pipes, 459 have temporary water supplies thanks to hoses that are connected to neighbouring properties, while 771 don't have any water.

The city says crews are thawing frozen pipes that were reported to the 311 hotline between Feb. 22 to March 4.

"Some pipes are more complex to thaw than others, and they require excavation work to install a connection for the thawing machine. This will add time before we can restore your water service," the city noted on its frozen pipes webpage.

An additional 6,312 properties have been identified by the city as being at risk of having frozen pipes, with 865 new properties added to its list on Monday afternoon.

The City of Winnipeg opened a Frozen Pipes Citizen Resource Centre over the weekend at the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex for Winnipeggers who have lost water service because of frozen pipes. (Jillian Taylor/CBC)
City staff say they will try to phone the owners of the 865 properties on Monday evening before hand-delivering notices on Tuesday.

Those who are on the at-risk list are asked to leave one cold-water tap running a trickle at all times, in order to prevent their pipes from freezing.

The city also said it has upgraded its electronic Citizens' Information Service so residents can look up a property and see whether it's at a higher risk of developing frozen pipes.

The city says it has received a total of 1,960 reports of frozen water pipes since November.

Given the colder than usual temperatures this winter, it could be at least May or June before the frost — which has been more than two metres deep underground, on average — comes out and pipes are no longer at risk of freezing, according to the city.

Businesses also affected

While homes make up the majority of properties with frozen pipes, some businesses are trying to make do with no running water.

We pay business taxes to the community and we're left high and dry.- Don McCuaig

Fastfrate Transport has had frozen pipes for about a month, and staff say the city has effectively given up on trying to thaw their pipes.

Company manager Don McCuaig says he and his 42 employees have to leave the building to use the washroom, or flush the toilets using buckets of water.

McCuaig said the pipes are frozen on the company's side of the property line, as well as on the city's side. The frozen pipes are so long, the city has told him they can't do anything to thaw them, he said.

"I'm not an expert in that kind of thing," he said Monday.

"I'm trying to run a business, and it just adds a whole new stress level to everything else in my day."

McCuaig said a private company is coming to Fastfrate on Tuesday, but there is no guarantee it can get the water flowing.

"We pay a significant amount of property taxes for this facility," he said. "We pay business taxes to the community and we're left high and dry."

In an email to CBC News sent late Monday, a city spokesperson said Fastfrate is still on the city's wait list for thawing service.

Amid growing frustrations from Winnipeggers, the city opened a Frozen Pipes Citizen Resource Centre over the weekend that provides drinking water, snacks, shower facilities and information about frozen pipes to residents who have lost access to city water services.

The first resource centre opened on Saturday at the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex, and the city plans to open more facilities in Winnipeg's east and south ends sometime this week.

Temporary hoses freezing, too

A blast of cold weather over the weekend added a new challenge for those who have temporary water hoses hooked up to a neighbour's water supply.

Randy Hull, the city's emergency preparedness co-ordinator, said there have been reports of the hose lines freezing as well.

"We do have some isolated situations where that it's freezing because it's still very cold, and where we're finding that they are freezing are actually at the tap end," he said.

Hull said anyone with frozen hose lines should call 311. As well, he said there are some temporary measures people can take.

"What's happening is we are asking people, if they can, wrap an old used towel around the outside tap end. That provides a bit of insulation value," Hull said.

"And then, if it is frozen, we're giving a quick recommendation that you can wrap a warm wet towel around it."

Property owners can also try pouring warm water on the tap to help melt the ice, he added.