Winnipeg homeowners who are without water due to frozen pipes are being offered free access to showers in the city's public swimming pools, as the list of properties needing pipe thawing grows.
The City of Winnipeg announced Monday that residents who are dealing with frozen water pipes can access shower facilities at all 12 of the city's indoor pools as well as the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre.
City officials say they are dealing with the highest number of frozen water pipes in 35 years, due to a colder than average winter.
Officials say this is the second-coldest winter in 75 years, and the frost underground is about two metres deep in some places.
Even if the weather starts to warm up in the coming weeks, the city warns that it could be May or June at the earliest before the frost is out of the ground.
537 properties on waiting list
Mayor Sam Katz said Monday that 619 properties have been affected by frozen pipes in Winnipeg, with 537 properties waiting for their pipes to be thawed by city crews.
It's a jump from last week, when more than 300 properties were on the waiting list.
Katz said in a normal year, there would be 100 homes needing their frozen pipes to be thawed.
City crews are working seven days a week to thaw pipes at homes and businesses on the waiting list using specialized electrical thawing machines.
The machines are equipped with "a computer system to monitor the current and automatically shuts off if there is any dangerous current loss into the house," the city stated in a news release.
Private contractors don't have those types of machines, and the devices are not available for rent, according to the city.
In the meantime, it will take about a week and a half to get all the affected properties on a temporary water supply.
City officials acknowledged that one home recently suffered fire damage after a city worker messed up while trying to connect a temporary hose.
The worker does not normally carry out that type of work, said Diane Sacher, the city's director of water services.
"A small fire resulted. The homeowner is still in his home," she told reporters.
"I think these are the kinds of things that can happen under the unusual circumstances."
'I've lost trust in our city,' says homeowner
Lawrence Hamm says he and his family of five have been without water for two weeks, and it took 13 days for the city to run a temporary tube from his neighbour's house to his sink.
Hamm said he has issues with a lack of communication and leadership from the city on the frozen pipes issue.
"We really haven't heard a lot of information for those of us who have been without water," he said. "I've gotten a lot of my information from the media."
Hamm said city officials contacted him on Monday, saying a crew would start thawing the pipes at his home that afternoon.
However, he said he still has concerns that he could be stuck with costly repairs once his water service is restored.
As well, he said he no longer trusts the City of Winnipeg.
"If you would've asked me this question 15 days ago, the absolute answer would have been yes. Now, no. I've lost faith," he said.
"I've lost trust in our city — not the workers who have been here, but I've lost faith and trust in our city to serve me."