Geology not behind Winnipeg's frozen pipes problem, says expert
Retired geophysicist John Hayles says CBC map of at-risk neighbourhoods points to human error
A retired geophysicist says a map of Winnipeg homes and businesses at highest risk of developing frozen water pipes suggests the problem cannot be caused by geology.
CBC News analyzed 190,000 addresses from the City of Winnipeg's website and identified 5,171 properties that could develop frozen pipes, representing about 70 per cent of properties at risk.
Our interactive map showing most of the affected properties shows large clusters in the St. John's, Weston and Earl Grey neighbourhoods.
"If there is one city in all of Canada — or all of the world — that should not have frozen pipes, it is Winnipeg," said retired geophysicist John Hayles, citing the city's usually cold winters.
A total of 2,320 homes and businesses have lost water since November due to frozen pipes, while 1,356 properties remain on the city's waiting list for pipe thawing as of Wednesday.
City officials have said water lines are freezing due to an unusually long and cold winter driving frost deep underground. Why the problem has been so extensive, however, remains a mystery.
Hayles said the CBC News map shows the clusters of at-risk properties are in square or rectangular patterns with straight lines.
Ground materials — sand, soil and clay — would never settle in such perfect grids, he said, meaning the frozen pipes problem must have a human-related cause, not a geological one.
"When the map came out with these retangular sides, I had to chuckle and think, 'Well, that sure looks like it's a human-related issue,'" he said.
"That's a pretty tough one to explain from a geology side. Geology just won't have that."
Hayles said he's very concerned about the frozen pipes crisis and would like to see more information released about what is causing the problem.