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Massena mayor warns of burst water pipes as frost line rises

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MASSENA — The frost line has risen, and homeowners are being advised to take precautions to keep their water lines from bursting.

Mayor James F. Hidy said Thursday he had been advised by the village Department of Public Works that the frost line had risen to 5 feet, meaning water lines were more susceptible to breaking.

The frost line is the measurement at which groundwater in soil is expected to freeze. The frost line is dependent on several factors, including nearby heat sources, climatic conditions of the area and the heat transfer properties of the soil. Pipes generally are installed below the frost line, or insulated to prevent them from freezing.

The transition from cold to warm and then back to cold is exacerbating the situation, Mr. Hidy said.

“This has been a very abnormal winter. It’s been at least 10 years since we’ve experienced anything like this. This is truly abnormal to our standards. We’re in an emergency state with it. It’s not going to get better. Next week we’ll have below-zero temperatures again,” he said.

With the rising of the frost line and the change in temperatures, homeowners should be taking preventive action to keep their pipes from bursting, the mayor said.

“With the bad weather of this past month, the coldness and the fact that the frost line has now reached 5 feet, we’re cautioning people of the probability of having water line breaks coming into their homes,” he said.

He said there already have been reports of water lines bursting.

“Homes are very, very susceptible to bursting their lines. We’ve already had three incidences. We don’t have the manpower to address them,” he said.

Mr. Hidy said that by law, it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to fix pipes should they burst.

“The DPW is going to continue doing whatever they can do to keep their own water main line going. It’s up to the residents to monitor their own,” he said.

One way possibly to prevent a pipe from bursting, he said, is to have a faucet in the home trickling or dripping water. Running water through the pipe, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.

“It doesn’t matter where, as long as it’s dripping, just a drip to keep the water moving. The best we can do for them is to warn them to keep their water moving,” he said.

Homeowners also can keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both day and night.

By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, they may incur a higher heating bill, but can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.

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