Cold snap brought water woes

WARREN – Aging infrastructure and frigid temperatures combined to trigger at least 15 water main breaks in the city during last week’s extreme cold spell.

“We had eight water main breaks from Sunday through Wednesday,” Bob Davis said. “The number of breaks has had water department employees working around the clock.”

Davis said freezing and thawing of the grounds due to the cold temperatures caused the ground to shift, which broke some of the city’s oldest water lines.

“It many cases, it took an average of eight hours, instead of four hours to do the repairs, because we could not simply place a ring around the pipes to patch them,” Davis said. “We had to cut out and replace the pipes.”

Once repairs were complete on the first group of pipes, Davis said five more ruptured Thursday and Friday.

“These line breaks were all over the city, not in one particular area,” Davis said. “We’ve consistently have had breaks over the years, but not so many on one particular period. The cold made things difficult all the way around.”

By comparison, the water department repaired just 13 water line breaks in the entire month of December and 11 in November.

In Girard, Mayor James Melfi said that city suffered only one water line break last week. Rex Fee, executive director of the Trumbull County Sanitary Engineer’s office, said the county had no water line breaks.

“We are getting so many breaking lines because of the city’s aging infrastructure,” Warren’s Davis said. “Some of the lines are 60 years to 70 years old. The lines are placed four feet underground, below the freeze line, but sometimes that is not enough.”

Warren Mayor Doug Franklin believes the situation would have been more dire if the city had not invested approximately $1.5 million into water line replacements on Willard Avenue, Jefferson Street and Youngstown Road.

That line replacement, Davis said, was critical in helping to reduce the potential number of breaks.

“It could have been twice the number of break if the city had not done those infrastructure improvements” Davis said.

To stay proactive, Franklin said the city will continue to pursue grants and favorable loans to continue replacing older lines.

In another casualty of the cold, students at STEAM Academy of Warren were dismissed after a pipe burst in the building around 9:30 a.m. Thursday. School reopened Friday.

Other complaints came from residents of both Warren and Girard of frozen water meters and frozen water lines.

Warren Councilman Alford Novak reported receiving eight calls from residents with frozen water lines, particularly on the city’s north end.