Southwest Virginia ready for record number of water main breaks - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Southwest Virginia ready for record number of water main breaks

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The Western Virginia Water Authority has crews on standby to repair water main breaks. With the temperatures expected to drastically increase and the ground starts thawing over the next few days they expect pipe problems. Contractors are on standby.

"January has been cold. We've had an excessive number of water breaks working lots of overtime," said Shawn Bison, a Western Virginia Water Authority crew supervisor.

Western Virginia Water Authority covers more than 150,000 customers in Roanoke City, Roanoke County and Franklin County. 

For the past few months they've made about 65 water main repairs during the month. They've seen about twice that this month. So far in January, there have been 116 water main breaks. The record is 130 set back in January 2010.

"It's not the oldest ones. We have pipes from the 1800s that are in great shape. It's typically the pipes from the 1950s. This is when cast-iron technology was changing," said Sarah Baumgardner, a spokesperson.

Water pipes are buried 18-36 inches in the ground. Crews have seen up to 24 inches of frozen ground this year. When the soil slowly freezes it expands causing dirt to shift the pipe but when temperatures warm up soil quickly thaws buckling the ground and cracking the pipe.

"If it's a small little crack in it and the rest of the pipe, the integrity is still good we can clamp it and that will fix it but in many cases it involves cutting that section a broken pipe out and putting in a new section of pipe," said Baumgardner who adds you shouldn't see an increase in your bill. "We've never had to increase rates because of an increased number in breaks. It's something we plan on."

To prevent water breaks Baumgardner suggests opening cabinet doors, slow drip your faucets and insulate your pipes.

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