Winnipeg residents fed up with waiting weeks for city crews to thaw their frozen pipes are taking matters into their own hands, with one homeowner having success today with a method developed by two local businesses.
At least 1,300 homes and businesses across the city are without running thanks to frozen pipes caused by underground frost that's as deep as 2½ metres in some places.
- FULL COVERAGE: Winnipeg's water crisis
With that many properties on the waiting list for one of the city's three thawing machines, some people are trying new techniques that are not endorsed by the city.
Homeowner finds success with hot water
Pamela and Jeff Kirkpatrick, whose Evanson Street home has been without water for 28 days, allowed some friends with Tractus Projects and J.B. Plumbing to conduct an experiment on Wednesday.
For about six hours, the team used a pressure washer to shoot hot water through a quarter-inch hose, down their main pipes.
The goal: to melt the ice through more than 21 metres of pipes through Kirkpatrick's property and city property to get to the water main.
"We're going in with small equipment and we're trying to thaw it," said Jaret Horbatiuk, Tractus Projects' principal.
Roughly six hours later, the water was running again at the Kirkpatrick house.
Diane Sacher, the city's director of water and waste, says staff are open to ideas from the public on pipe-thawing alternatives.
However, she said nothing has worked other than the city's three DBH thawing machines, which are currently working seven days a week.
"No one's had success in thawing frozen services on the city side with that equipment," she said. "It seems the only thing that's been working is the DBH machine."
Horbatiuk said he plans to refine his method and share it with the city soon.
Ontario man's liquid solution a hot sell
Meanwhile, an Ontario inventor says a growing number of Winnipeggers are turning to his product, which claims to thaw water lines safely.
David Bobiash developed Liqui-Fire, a thick, all-natural liquid that eats through ice plugs and coats pipes to prevent freezing.
While the product has been around for years, Bobiash said his sales to Winnipeg this winter have increased by more than 400 per cent.
"The number of homeowners that are without water or sewer — because you can't really have one without the other — it's astronomical this year, the number of people that are suffering," he told CBC News on Tuesday.
He said he has sold bottles of Liqui-Fire, which is marketed as being safe for home use, to customers across North America this year.
CBC News has spoken to at least one local business owner who says the product thawed out his pipes.
Bobiash said he first invented Liqui-Fire when his pipes froze while he was living in northern Ontario 25 years ago.
"It's all-natural," he said, but wouldn't reveal the ingredients. "It's like KFC and Heinz ketchup and, you know, basically it's a trade secret."
On Wednesday, city officials reiterated their concern with the product and outlined a number of risks associated with it. Below are their concerns:
Health professionals have indicated that they would not support the use of this product as it is not certified as safe for use in drinking water systems, and in fact the MSDS (material safety data sheet) does not list all the ingredients.
- The product mentioned, Liqui-Fire, does not appear to be NSF certified for drinking water use.
- The operating licence issued to the City for the operation of the water treatment and supply system does not allow for the use of chemicals unless they have been certified for drinking water use.
- The potential health risk to users of the chemical is being further examined by provincial regulators, including the Manitoba Office of Drinking Water, Manitoba Health and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
- We do not recommend that residents use products that are not certified for drinking water use to thaw frozen water pipes.