Tis the Season – for Water Main Breaks?

Tis the Season – for Water Main Breaks?

 It’s that time of year again when the temperature dips and those of us located in the northern United States can experience some pretty treacherous weather.  Over the last couple of years this colder weather seems to have migrated further south, including a freak snow storm in Atlanta last year and significantly lower temperatures in Texas and other surrounding states.  

With the cold weather, comes the increased possibility of water mains and pipes bursting and wreaking havoc. Pipes and mains are affected more so in colder weather due to the expansion and contraction of the pipe material, making it weaker. Even a 10°change in temperature of air or water can cause significant stress on the pipes.     Other things, including the material that makes up the pipe, corrosion, soil condition, infrastructure age and ground movement also contribute to breaks. 

Water main breaks can lead to water pouring into streets and freezing causing problems for motorist and backing up traffic.  Customers in the area of the break may experience a shut off of water while repairs are being made.  Additionally, if customers do have access to water they may be under a boil advisory.  There are approximately 250,000 water main breaks every year in the United States, which breaks down to 685 per day.  That’s a lot of people inconvenienced every day.

For those with water treatment equipment, knowing what to do can be confusing.  Many just assume that “water treatment equipment” may take care of it.   This is not necessarily the case. Water softeners or ion exchange systems mainly reduce hardness minerals, so there is no protection against bacterial contamination. If an Ultraviolet Light is part of the equipment, then there is some protection against events that lead to bacteria in water.  Those who have Reverse Osmosis units have some additional protection, as they can filter out some particles, including some microbiological contaminants.  Reverse osmosis units have small pore sizes which are effective at removing small particles and some bacteria. However, studies show that living organisms can “squeeze” thru small pore sizes, so additional protection is recommended for microbiological contaminants.  Those with other types of treatment equipment may be faced with additional maintenance once the “boil order” is lifted. It is good practice to change out any carbon-based cartridge filter after a boil advisory as carbon can provide the optimum environment for any bacteria that may be present as a result of the break.  Don’t forget the carbon filter in your refrigerator. For water softeners, it is a good rule of thumb to disinfect the system according to the manufacturer’s instructions after any boil advisory, to ensure bacteria are not present. 

If you are under a boil advisory and have treatment equipment, you may want to reach out to your water treatment professional for assistance in maintaining your equipment properly.  If you do not know who to contact because you inherited the equipment or your dealer has gone out of business, you can search for a professional on the Water Quality Association’s website by visiting: www.wqa.org. If you want to test your water to ensure it is free from bacteria, give us a call and we would be happy to help you.  1-800-458-3330