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South Fire District, Middletown, CT

Winter Weather And Water Main Breaks
January 14, 2009

Water and Sewer Department
City of Middletown

There is approximately a 200 mile network of pipes, pumping stations, and storage tanks that delivers water to our customers. The majority of the water pipes that were installed are over 50 years old and are constructed using cast iron pipes. Cast iron is a material that is relatively brittle and sensitive to external pressure placed on the pipe. Today, we use ductile iron pipes that are lined with cement mortar and are not as brittle. Even a 10-degree change in the air temperature can increase stress on a pipe. Water temperatures below 40 degrees F can also cause pipes to become more brittle, particularly if they have been subject to corrosion over time. Air temperature at or below freezing causes the ground above a pipe to freeze, therefore increasing the external stress on a pipe. Since the drop in water temperature lags behind air temperature changes, water main breaks usually occur one or two days after a severe cold snap.

Corrosion, inside and outside of a pipe, decreases the thickness of the wall of the pipe and increases the chance of a break. Pipe diameter also is a factor in water main breaks. The smaller the diameter, the greater the risk of a water main break. Pipe age is the single largest factor, the break rate increases significantly after 60 years as a general rule.

If someone sees water along the road when it hasn't rained or sees water flowing in areas where no water should normally be, do not hesitate to call us at 343-8085 during business hours and at 347-2541 for after hours. Our crews will investigate the situation and respond accordingly.

If a water main break does occur our crews will respond quickly to assess if the break is a municipal responsibility. Sometimes the water service to a residence or business is the source of the break. As a rule, the service from the curb stop or "shutoff valve" located at the edge of road "right of way" to the structure is the owners responsibility to repair.

As always, our crews will work diligently until the water main break is repaired. As a precaution, during these severe cold snaps it is a good idea to store some water for home use, should a water main break occur or due to any other severe weather condition that may disrupt service in your area.