VALPARAISO | The snow on the ground isn't the only problem for the city this winter. There's the frozen pipes under the ground.
With the frost line measuring up to 4 feet, the city's Utilities Department workers have been called on to help thaw more than 30 frozen residential water service lines. They are working seven days a week, and the department is getting more calls each day.
Mark Geskey, assistant distribution manager, said the frost line is the lowest he's seen in his 22 years with the department. The problem is with shallow lines, some only 2 1/2 feet below the surface, and those under the road or a driveway.
Those buried under the snow are less likely to freeze because the snow acts as an insulator. To thaw a frozen line, the crews have to dig out the service valve and send a tube of steam into the line until the water is running.
"We encourage customers to leave a faucet run at a trickle as this will keep water molecules moving, reducing the chance that pipes will freeze," a department spokesman said. "Place a bucket underneath the faucet so the water can be saved for other household uses.
"While the temperatures have been moving higher, that does not guarantee the frost in the ground will reduce quickly," he said.
Geskey said the city had a total of 21 water main breaks in January and has had nine more in February.
Anyone who thinks their line might be frozen or who needs more information can contact the utilities department service center at 462-6174.