TRAVERSE CITY — Muriel Nelson leaves a slim stream of water running in her Traverse City home. She's afraid to turn it off for fear her water pipes will freeze again.
Nelson is among a growing number of people in Traverse City who have had problems with buried water lines that freeze oustide the home. The cause, city officials said, tends to be too much snow-shoveling and lines not buried deep enough. Pipes freeze where they run under roads, sidewalks or driveways that lack snow cover.
"If you have snow cover it helps act as insulation," said Dave Green, Traverse City's director of public works. "When you keep sidewalks and driveways clear of snow the frost gets driven down into the ground."
City work crews will thaw the pipes if freezing occurs between the water main and what is known as the curb stop, a valve that tends to sit next to the sidewalk. Workers dig up the curb stop, dismantle it, and run a small tube of recirculating hot water inside the service pipe to thaw the ice. Work crews said they are responding to one or two calls a day; as of Thursday they'd had responded to about 18 frozen pipes.
When the line freezes beyond the curb stop it becomes the responsibility of the property owner to have it thawed.
Nelson's water service runs under the driveway at the home she rents. The owner called a plumber to thaw the pipes.
"I've got my water running and I'm going to keep it running," Nelson said. "I'll have to pay for it, but I have no idea how much. I"ll just wait until I get the bill."
Officials for the cities of Petoskey, Boyne City, and Manistee have asked all water customers to run a pencil thin stream of water 24 hours a day until spring to prevent service freeze-ups.