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DULUTH - The cold weather has taken its toll on the Northland and Duluth's water system.
"The system has really got a lot of years on it," Duluth Utilities Chief Engineer Eric Shaffer said.
Duluth utilities crews have been putting in overtime to fix water main breaks caused by freezing temperatures and old pipes.
"The city has a lot of pipe that is generally in bad shape," Shaffer said.
The water system underneath Superior St. in downtown Duluth is 120 years old and 50 miles of pipes throughout the city are more than a century old.
"For years we've been talking about the importance of investing in our underground infrastructure," Duluth Mayor Don Ness said.
Ness says it is time to start getting serious about replacing old water and sewer lines instead of making short–term fixes, like the recent repairs on Piedmont Ave.
"Nobody wants to spend millions of dollars fixing the pipes under the ground, nobody thinks about the water infrastructure," Ness said. "You don't think about the sewer infrastructure until you go to your faucet and nothing comes out."
Avoiding the big fix is costing taxpayers anyways.
Each year, more than $2 million is spent fixing water main breaks and leaks in the city.
"Are we going to spend the money on paying overtime for folks to dig up the streets and fix the water main breaks or are we going to use those same dollars to invest in new infrastructure that won't break for 50 years?" Ness said.
Ness says those tough decisions will ultimately have to be made with the city council following a plan so that every time a street is re–constructed, old pipes underneath are fixed, too.
"We can't afford to push it off another 10, 15, 20 years because the problem continues to get worse," Ness said.