Water main break forces dry day, boil-water advisory
By Alison Squires
Imagine a world without running water on a regular basis, like it was in the “old days,” the pioneers would say.
Such was the case when the Town of Wadena public works crew was forced to turn off the water at the main pump after attempting to thaw frozen shutoff valves, to no avail, on Wednesday, March 12.
After locating the break near Wadena Elementary School (WES) on Tuesday and only succeeding in turning one valve off, town superintendent Jaimie Jordan said they steamed then poured more than 400 gallons of hot water over the second valve to thaw it.
“The frost is just so deep,” said Jordan when the News caught up to him Wednesday morning. When asked how far down the water mains are, he said about nine feet.
Early frost in the fall along with little snow cover at the time, and the extended period of extreme cold this winter, have allowed frost to penetrate deeper than normal. While Wadena’s Main Street was flooding above curb height in several places, and 4th Avenue, just south of WES, was closed, crews cleared the buildup of snow along Main Street’s gutters for the ongoing runoff until the main line was finally shut off late Tuesday afternoon.
On Wednesday the town was forced to turn off the water main at 9:30 a.m. and close the portion of Hwy. 35 in front of WES, causing all highway traffic to be diverted for most of the day. Local restaurants were closed, as were the elementary and high schools, and Wadena Co-op posted a sign that it did not have water available at its refill station, while bottled water became scarce everywhere.
The Water Security Agency issued a boil-water advisory mid-Wednesday to town residents as a precaution, in anticipation of the main being repaired by the end of the day.
The deep frost has played havoc with water lines provincewide and Wadena is no exception; however, the town so far has been extremely lucky. This is the only break the town has had to deal with to date, aside from thawing some frozen water lines. While WES had been closed since Monday, other communities such as Saskatoon and Regina have had more than their fair share of issues. Saskatoon has experienced 145 water main breaks while Regina has had about 58 since Jan. 1. According to CBC News, this has been the worst in 35 years for Regina. The average wait time in Winnipeg was recently reported as 12 to 17 days for homeowners needing pipes thawed.
The bright sunshine and mild temperature on Wednesday for crews working outdoors did not go unnoticed by some.
“Well, it’s not minus-40,” smiled one observer who was watching the proceedings in front of the school.
On its website, the Town of Wadena recommended the boil-water advisory be followed until further notice after the water had been turned back on.
“The Town of Wadena public works staff and local contractors at 4 p.m. (Wednesday) have now repaired the water break and water is now restored,” stated Mayor Greg Linnen on Thursday morning. “We will take samples of the water to have it tested and will notify the public if there is any further action to be taken.”
Further notifications may be found on the Town of Wadena website at townofwadena.com. You might also follow Wadena News on Twitter @wadenanewsed.