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Frozen pipes: Residents wait for service in Muskegon Heights

Posted at 9:15 PM, Mar 02, 2015

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. -- Matthew Hanes is waiting on the city of Muskegon Heights to send someone to thaw the city pipes that service his home.

FOX 17 found out the city's insurance won't cover welding which is needed to heat those pipes and get the water flowing. We're told the liability is, it's a fire hazard. Interim city manager Lori Doody said the city is having trouble getting contractors who are willing to take on that liability.

Hanes lives on Jefferson Street. He said his water has been out since Tuesday, and the city pipes are frozen at no fault of his own.

"It's like 75 degrees in our house. We keep it nice and warm. I don't like to be cold. I'd rather be sweatin!" he said.

"We got jugs of water from last night," Hanes pointed out. He said he has to go to a friend's house to fill up.

Everything from the shower, to the toilet, kitchen faucet, and the washing machine are useless.
When the water stopped flowing, Hanes said he called his landlord and then the city to report the problem.

"They said there were hundreds of people without water," he said.

FOX 17 stopped by city hall and spoke with Lori Doody, the interim city manager. She didn’t want to go on camera, but said so far, 150 to 160 people have called in to report frozen pipes. Doody said the snow being pushed into the ground by vehicles and freezing temps are to blame.

She said the number of calls for service started small and then snowballed, and there is a waiting list. Doody said the process to thaw the pipes includes welding. She said the city's insurance doesn't cover this because it's such a high liability, a fire risk.

So the city is working with welding contractors, and many don't want to do the job because of the liability. FOX 17 spoke with several other people in Hanes' shoes. Some were his neighbors.

We caught up with Johnny Smith outside of city hall. He said his father's pipes froze twice last winter, and it just happened again.

"I decided to come down and make sure my dad's name was on the list. His pipes are frozen up," Smith said.

He added, "My dad's a senior. So we kind of want to get him running as soon as possible."

FOX 17 was told no estimate right now of when some of these folks will get running water back. Another person emailed FOX 17 and said they were told it could be one week. Residents in other parts of West Michigan are also experiencing frozen pipes.