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Water main breaks come with the winter weather


January 11, 2017

Havre Daily News staff

With very cold weather — especially with alternating warmer weather — coming into north-central Montana this winter, people have been, and likely will continue to, experience water main breaks in the area.

Havre Public Works provided some information to explain what happens in a water main break, what people might notice and who they should contact if their main breaks:

What is a water main break?

A water main is an underground pipe that delivers water to the customer’s service pipe. In residential areas it usually runs under the street. If a hole or crack develops in the pipe, the water will typically find its way to the surface. Because the water main is under pressure, water will continue to flow until the break is repaired.

How much notice will homeowners receive if their water needs to be turned off?

If water needs to be turned off for a water main break, homeowners will receive little or no notice. The water can flood streets and private property causing damage and safety hazards and must be controlled as quickly as possible.

Will customers notice anything different about their water after a water main break?

After a water main break, customers may notice brown or cloudy water coming from their tap. If so, they should not use appliances or drink the water until it runs clear.

How many miles of water mains are there?

City of Havre has over 35 miles of water mains. About 90 percent of mains are cast and ductile iron. Havre has cast iron pipes still in service that were installed prior to 1940, located in older sections of town. The design life for cast iron pipe is 75-100 years.

What causes water main breaks?

Water main breaks usually result from external corrosion of the pipe. Soil in parts of Havre is highly conductive and corrodes the metallic pipe from outside in. Changing soil conditions can then cause the weakened pipe to break.

Does cold weather cause more water main breaks?

Water main breaks are more likely to occur when frost penetrates deep into the ground, to a level of 3-5 feet, usually from late December until early April. Cold temperatures may send the frost deeper.

How many water main breaks happen in Havre annually?

The city of Havre averages 20-25 water main breaks annually. We have been able to reduce water main breaks by replacing and repairing corroded mains with new Ductile Iron or PVC Pipe.

How are they repaired?

First we control the water by closing valves. Then we contact other utilities — MT One Call System Call 811 — to make sure we can dig without damaging other services or endangering staff or the public. We find the leak using an electronic leak detector when it’s possible, and then dig down to the pipe. Depending on the type of failure, we may apply a repair clamp or replace a length of pipe.

How do we determine which breaks to repair first on any given day?

We first repair breaks that could cause the most damage or hardship. Breaks which affect a large number of people, such as apartment blocks, or institutions, such as hospitals, personal care homes and schools, or traffic on major roads will be at the top of the list.

How much does is cost to repair an average water main break?

It costs about $4,000 to repair an average break.

Who should you contact to report a water main break?

Contact: Public Works Department at 265-4941, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Havre Police Department at 264-4361 after hours and on weekends.


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