Deep Freeze Leads to Frozen Water Mains; No Running Water For Residents

Posted at 6:11 PM, Feb 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-24 23:31:21-05

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — The frost line is the depth underground at which things normally don’t freeze.

Well, the pipes underground at 79 Plymouth Ave. have frozen, and it’s affecting the man that lives here. When you flip on your faucet, you expect it to work, but Douglas Ayars of Battle Creek doesn’t anymore.

He’s living without running water, and it comes down to fetching five jugs of water a day.

“Twenty gallons each day that I go through between coffee, and the toilet and trying to do my own dishes and stuff,” Ayars said.

He said that routine is about a month old. When he realized the problem wasn’t inside his home, he and his landlord called the Battle Creek Public Works Department. A worker came out to inspect and determined the problem was outside. Three days later, a crew dug a hole to the water main on Plymouth Avenue.

“It’s actually frozen underneath, in the middle of the road and they were supposed to tear up the road to fix my water, and that was over two weeks ago, and I haven’t seen or heard from them since,” Ayars explained.

FOX 17 spoke with public works superintendent Terry Hart by phone. He said on Feb. 9, a crew tried unsuccessfully to thaw the pipe.

Hart said so far this cold winter has led to as many as 150 Battle Creek area homes being affected by a frozen water main.

The problem: the ground is freezing up to 5 feet deep. That’s deeper than the main is buried in some spots. It’s a similar situation happening across West Michigan.

The average frost depth in the state of Michigan is 3.5 feet during the average winter. However, we’re seeing a ‘deep freeze’ and the conditions are living up to that name.

The public works superintendent told FOX 17 the home was moved down in priority because his staff  thought it was unoccupied, and that Ayars was a caretaker.

It’s an apparent misunderstanding.

Hart confirmed with FOX 17 a crew is scheduled to stop by today. During our interview with Ayars, they showed up.

“Are you kidding me?” Ayars questioned as the city crew drove up.

I asked, “Well, they’re pulling up here as we do the interview. What are thoughts?”

Ayars replied, “I want to see how long it’s going to actually take them to get running water back up here.”

We watched as a public works crew drilled into the ground to get to the main in the middle of the road. It’s the crew’s second attempt to get Ayar’s water running again.

The public works superintendent says under 20 homes remain affected, and crews are working as quickly as they can to fix the problem.