City will thaw outside water lines for a fee

Service costs $135; it's available weekdays on first-come, first-served basis

Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2004

The city's Water Utility Division is once again offering thawing service for outside water lines. Its equipment had broken down before the latest cold snap.

Temperatures downtown dipped to 2 degrees Monday and minus 3 degrees Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. The lowest temperatures at the Juneau Airport were a balmy 6 degrees Monday and 3 degrees Tuesday.

The city's 14-year-old electrical generator was repaired Tuesday, said Utilities Superintendent Grant Ritter. The two-member thawing crew planned to use it for a couple of thawing jobs Wednesday, he said.

The service costs $135 for a half hour and is available from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays on a first-come, first-served basis, Ritter said. Residents may set up an appointment after hours by calling the answering service at 789-8844.

The city thaws outside service lines that run to houses. It does not thaw indoor plumbing because it doesn't want to compete with private businesses that do so, Ritter said.

A crew typically can unthaw an outside line in less than 30 minutes, he said. It will move on to the next house if it cannot unthaw a line in 30 minutes if there is a waiting list, he said. But if time allows, the city will spend more time at a house.

When a long cold snap hit Juneau in the late 1990s, the city unthawed lines in groups instead of on a first-come, first-thawed basis, Ritter said.

Local plumbing companies have been busy thawing indoor pipes and typically leave the outside lines to the city, company officials say.

"The thaw machines have been really busy in the last few days," said Darren Moore, an employee at Cameron's Plumbing and Heating. Cameron's has received about 200 calls in the past few days, when the latest cold snap started, he said.

Ward's Plumbing & Heating has been busy with about a dozen calls daily, said co-owner Mike Ward. He found an "iceberg" under a trailer at Switzer Creek on Tuesday night after the pipes froze and broke.

The cold snap that started Saturday will begin to lift today when temperatures are expected to reach the mid- to upper 20s, said Pete Rahe, a hydro meteorological technician at the National Weather Service in Juneau. By this weekend, temperatures are expected to reach the mid- to upper 30s.

But cold days in Juneau may not be over, Rahe said. Last March, Juneau experienced some of its coldest temperatures of the year, he said.

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