Why Water Main Replacement is More Common in Winter

Opinion & Expertise
January 18, 2016

by David Balkan

Water Main Replacement More Common in Winter

Don’t let the predictions of a mild El Nino winter in the United States fool you. Water mains are more prone to breakage during the winter months causing interruptions in service, flooding, and other related problems. New York City homeowners should also remember that a water main replacement is their responsibility, not the city’s, if it involves the service line for their private property. The mild winter temperatures can fool you into complacency, thinking that because conditions are not adverse, water main breaks are less likely to happen.

Water Main Replacement More Common in Winter

Think again. New York City’s climate by its very nature stresses water mains because of the temperature swings that occur between summer and winter. Pipes are more prone to breakage below 40 degrees Fahrenheit because they become more brittle. Beyond this fact, however, just a 10-degree swing in air or water temperature can put additional stress on pipes. El Nino winters often have wide temperature swings, producing weather systems with snow one week, followed by unseasonably warm temperatures the next week. The naturally more brittle state of pipes in winter, followed by frequent temperature swings is a recipe for disaster.

Witness the recent water main break that occurred in Montreal at the end of October and has resulted in 209 claims filed against the city for damages. The break occurred in a concrete lined water main that was 50 years old, but reportedly had a 100-year expected lifespan. An inspection of the main jsut three years ago showed no signs of stress.

Temperature swings are not the only factors that cause burst water mains. One of the biggest culprits is aging infrastructure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 240,000 water main breaks occur in this country every year due primarily to aging infrastructure. Nowhere is this truer than in New York City, where some water mains date back to the late 1800s.

Other factors that can cause water main breaks include:

  • Soil erosion resulting from a previous break, excavation, or nearby construction activity
  • Corrosion in older, unlined pipes
  • Small pipe diameter
  • Age over 60 years

Balkan offers free and no obligation on-site visits, to determine the condition and age of your water service line. Knowing the overall condition of your line can help head off any potential emergency water main replacement. If your line needs replacement, it is better to do it on your own terms, at a planned time, and not during harsh Winter weather conditions. Contact Balkan Sewer And Water Main to schedule a visit today. We are available seven days a week, and even after hours.

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

Dave Balkan

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