Legion faces closure, homeowners mad over frozen pipe waits

It’s a frustrating and difficult issue for hundreds of Winnipeg homeowners and businesses – pipes are freezing left and right, and city crews have more than 600 people on waiting lists to have them thawed.

City adds adds equipment in battle to thaw hundreds of frozen pipes in Winnipeg

Number of Winnipeg homeowners without running water due to frozen pipes keeps growing, prompting the city's mayor to say more may have to be done to help. 2:03

It’s a frustrating and difficult issue for hundreds of Winnipeg homeowners and businesses – pipes are freezing left and right, and city crews have more than 600 people on waiting lists to have them thawed.

And the list keeps growing every day with 60 more people added today, bringing the total to 677 properties with frozen pipes.

In the latest development from the City of Winnipeg, Mayor Sam Katz told reporters the city may consider paying for hotel rooms for people with no water.

Meanwhile, a North End legion is facing closure after frozen pipes have left them without running water.

The General Sam Steele Legion on Salter Street has had its pipes freeze for the second time this winter.

The legion’s president, Vi Bakrac, said a city representative told the legion it could be three weeks before crews can make it out to thaw the pipes.

“They said there was a five day wait for inspection and a 12-day wait for thawing,” said Bakrac.

The delay could mean the end of the legion — forever.

“If we have to close our doors, we will close for good,” said Bakrac. “We need revenue coming in, and if it’s not coming in, then, well, we have to close.”

Bakrac said the legion has become an important part of the neighbourhood for seniors, hosting Wednesday afternoon dances and a variety of other activities.

A number of local residents walk to the legion because they don’t have cars and rely on it for exercise and socializing.

Bakrac is frustrated because the organization was told by city officials last year to keep a tap running during the winter months to keep the pipes from freezing. They did just that, but it didn’t work this year.

A hair salon across the street has the same problem.

“This is hard for me especially at the end of the month,” said Alexia Ferrer, who owns Alexia’s Beauty Salon on Salter.

Ferrer said her business has been without water in a week and can’t do a shampoo or haircut without it.

She’s worried about what it will mean for paying her end-of-month bills.

“I have two kids. Where am I going to get the money to buy food?” said Ferrer

So far, the city has not offered any compensation to businesses dealing with frozen pipes, but they’ve hinted there may be relief for homeowners.

City considers paying for hotel rooms

The city is considering paying for hotel rooms for some Winnipeggers dealing with frozen pipes.

"There comes a point in time where we as a city have to look at that situation and that'll be an announcement that will be taking place," Katz said on Wednesday.

Hundreds of people have been without running water for anywhere from a week to more than a month, and so far the city has offered free access for those people to shower facilities at all 12 of the civic indoor pools, as well as the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre.

But there comes a time when more needs to be done, Katz said.

"God, after four weeks, I mean, that's enough," he said.

"I know there'll be others that will have their own opinions [as to when hotel rooms should be offered] — some people might think two weeks, some people might think two months — but that's something that I do believe has to be considered, yes."

More equipment help is also on the way.

Katz said the city's three thawing machines are working around the clock but another will be available soon.

"One has come in and it's being tested probably right now as we speak," he said.

The city has also ordered all the heavy duty hose it can get so people can hook up to their neighbour's water supply.

"We've actually purchased all the hose that exists and we got the manufacturer to make more for us," Katz said.

He encouraged anyone with frozen lines to call 311, saying they'll be called back within 24 hours.

"They'll get back to you, tell you what you have to do and as soon as you get permission from your neighbour and set up a time, they will come out there [and install a temporary line between the homes]," he said.

"We have the hose and we have the crews and that's something we have to start getting down as quickly as possible."

Another 600 homes at risk

Late Wednesday afternoon city officials said they had identified an additional 600 properties that were at risk for their pipes freezing.

City representatives began calling those residents on Wednesday, asking them to turn on one cold water tap and leave it trickling to prevent freezing.

Those people would then be credited on their water bills up to 1,500 litres a day.

Officials said homeowners may have to run their taps until as late as May or June.

But a spokesperson for the city cautioned homeowners not to leave water running unless they were identified as at risk, or water and sewer systems could flood or backup. 

Frustration over frozen pipes boils over

All those efforts aren’t helping Wildwood Park residents Jerry Friesen and his wife. They have gone without running water for eight days.

“We’re coping,” said Friesen. “It’s a challenge. It’s going to make us stronger right?”

But Winnipegger Deanna Cohen isn’t so sure she could cope with the challenge of no running water.

She has been running her water to avoid a freeze-up.

“We are older people. It would be a little bit of a hardship if we had to be without water,” said Cohen.

Winnipegger Jesse Cringan said he did that, but it didn’t help. Now, his pipes are frozen, and he has been showering at his mother-in-laws before heading to work.

“You shake your head and think, ‘This is what you were trying to avoid by calling the city in the first place’” said Cringan. “You didn’t want to be part of the problem. Now, you’re not only part of the problem, you’re last in line of having a solution.”

City officials said it could be weeks before pipes are thawed for many people.


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