Extreme temperatures lead to water main breaks

Monday, January 10, 2011 | 5:42 p.m. CST; updated 1:34 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 11, 2011
A tree remains covered in ice in front of Riback Supply Company at the east end of Business Loop 70 after a massive water main break over the weekend. "As soon as I topped the hill at Lake of the Woods I could see it shooting up," said Cindy Baker, the warehouse manager at Riback and the first employee on the scene.

COLUMBIA — When Cindy Baker reached the top of the hill near Riback Supply Company on Saturday morning, she could see the water spurting out of the ground and soaking the road, trees and parking lot.

"As soon as I topped the hill at Lake of the Woods, I could see it shooting up,” she said.


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Baker, the warehouse manager at Riback Supply Company, received a phone call about the incident around 8:23 that morning. By the time she arrived at the site of the water main break, Columbia Water and Light crews were already taking photographs and consulting a map to find the water shutoff. City employees covered the geyser with a backhoe scoop to contain the water until they found the valve to redirect it. 

The water main break on East Business Loop was one of four cases reported to Columbia Water and Light on Saturday. The other breaks occurred on the 300 block of Sondra Avenue, at the intersection of Braemore Road and Heather Lane and at a private residence on the corner of Broadway and William Street.

There was only one crew on call for the weekend, so Columbia Water and Light called in off-duty employees for assistance with cleanup and repairs, utility services specialist Connie Kacprowicz said. 

“We had everything repaired by 5 p.m. on Saturday,” she said.

The cost of damages had not been calculated as of Monday, Kacprowicz said.

Cleaning crews were still extracting water from the walls at the east warehouse and the front offices at Riback Supply Company Monday morning. Among other repairs, the baseboards and carpeting will have to be replaced and the walls will have to be repainted, Baker said.

Kacprowicz said claims of damage caused by water main breaks on city property are submitted to the City of Columbia’s risk management department. Water main breaks that occur on private property, however, are the homeowner’s responsibility.

“During extreme temperature changes or moisture changes in the soil, we see more water main breaks,” Kacprowicz said. “When it gets extremely cold like this, we get concerned that there could be water main breaks.”

She said Columbia’s soil contains a lot of clay, which makes it more susceptible to shifting that could cause water main breaks. Despite the issues, not many customers lost water service over the weekend.

“There’s redundancy built into the system," Kacprowicz said, "so if there’s a break, you can valve it off” and still have another pipe supplying water.

Kacprowicz said that homeowners should open cabinet doors to keep their water pipes warm. In homes with a history of burst water pipes, she recommended that homeowners leave a faucet dripping “just a teeny, tiny bit” to prevent frozen pipes.

Andie Tessler contributed to this report.

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Allan Sharrock January 11, 2011 | 12:14 p.m.

I was wondering what happened to that tree!

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