‘Tis The Season for Frequent Water Main Breaks

DULUTH, Minn. – Another below zero-day in the Northland brings about more water main breaks.

Around the noon hour Thursday, Duluth utility crews worked to fix a break on the 100 block of Farley Lane.

In the first three weeks of 2022, nine water main breaks have been reported. On average, the city works to repair around 150 breaks annually.

Last year that number totaled 103 repairs, and there were 72 in 2020.

The interim utility operations manager at Public Works & Utilities for the City of Duluth said it’s not only a massive fluctuations in temperatures that causes pipes to burst.

“It’s a combination of aging infrastructure, our average water mains are about 70 years old, and the frost in the ground. When we get a cold snap, the ground freezes, and that top layer of frozen dirt is called frost, but the frost doesn’t form evenly,” said Chris Kleist, interim utility operations manager. “That uneven frost formation puts pressure on the mains and that’s what causes them to break.”

Officials remind residents to give crews time and space to fix breaks if they occur in their neighborhood.

Crews continue to replace aging pipes regularly, but it’s a time-consuming process. The City of Duluth is responsible for 435 miles of pipes. New materials are built stronger and are more resilient to change in pressure due to the frost.

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