WATERVILLE — Kennebec Water District crews have been busy this month repairing or replacing sections of underground water mains that have burst or cracked because of colder than usual temperatures, according to Jeffrey LaCasse, the district’s general manager.

“Extremely cold weather has driven the frost into the ground farther than it has in several years,” LaCasse said Friday.

“Typically every 10 years we’ll get a bad one, and this is a bad one.”

LaCasse said in some areas, frost is down in the ground five feet or more, putting pressure on mains and causing them to break.

“We’ve had more than the normal number of leaks in the past three weeks,” he said.

Starting around 5:30 Friday morning, residents of lower Johnson Heights, near North Street, called to report water coming out of the ground and flooding the area, a sign that there was a problem, LaCasse said. Some homeowners affected by the break reported having no water or low water pressure, another sign that there is a problem underground.

Using a backhoe with an hydraulic ram, district workers found the break, closed off an 18 to 20-foot section of pipe that had broken, replaced it, and had the water flowing by 2:30 p.m., according to LaCasse.

About two dozen homes were without water from between 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. as service had to be shut off while the pipe was being replaced.

About three weeks ago the district began getting reports of similar water main breaks, on Augusta Road in Winslow, Savage Street in Fairfield and various areas of Waterville, he said.

Water main breaks have plagued the rest of central Maine as well, including at Gardiner Area High School and near Cony Circle in Augusta earlier this month.

The main that broke Friday near Johnson Heights and North Street was a 6-inch cast iron water pipe buried between 5 and 7 feet under the ground, he said.

Area residents this month also have been reporting their 3/4-inch copper service lines form the road to their homes have frozen, according to LaCasse. Typically that occurs in areas where there is not a lot of snow cover to insulate the pipes, such as under driveways or shoveled areas, he said.

He recommended that people who have had frozen lines in the past to keep a faucet running a little bit in their homes to avoid issues.

“Moving water won’t freeze,” he said.

All the extra snow this month has not caused issues for the district — it actually acts as insulation for pipes so they don’t freeze, according to LaCasse.

He said that, three weeks ago, eight main breaks were reported in one week.

He said anyone seeing water running in the roadway may call the district’s 24-hour service line at 872-2763 and crews will respond to the area to fix the problem.

The Kennebec Water District is a quasi-municipal corporation that serves communities in Kennebec and Somerset counties and draws its water supply from China Lake. Locally, the district provides Waterville, Winslow, Benton, Fairfield and Vassalboro with water for domestic, commercial and fire protection services. It also is a water supply for AquaMaine, in Oakland.

The district’s system includes more than 150 miles of distribution mains, 17 miles of transmission main, 8,900 services, 8,700 meters and 633 hydrants, according to its website.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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