Extreme cold temperatures affecting water service and City’s response times for service calls

The R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant supplies nearly half of Toronto and York Region's water supply.
The R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant supplies nearly half of Toronto and York Region’s water supply.

Prolonged, extreme cold temperatures are having an impact on the private drinking water pipes in many homes and buildings, as well as water meters and the City of Toronto’s watermains, causing delays in response times to service calls.

The City of Toronto has received more than 1,400 “no water” calls since February 14. About 95 per cent of the calls investigated have been as a result of frozen pipes within the dwelling.

Customers with no water to only one faucet or appliance likely have a frozen pipe in their home and should follow the steps below to thaw the pipe. If these steps do not work, customers may wish to contact a plumber.

Those without water to all faucets and appliances are encouraged to take the following steps before contacting 311, as the service pipe delivering water into the home may be frozen:

  • Turn on a tap in the basement – preferably the cold water faucet in the laundry room.
  • Use a blow dryer to warm the suspected frozen pipe for one to two hours and place space heaters in the room. Check regularly to ensure the dryer and space heaters do not overheat.
  • Place a warm towel or rag around the suspected frozen pipe.
  • Depending on the outside temperature and the extent of freezing within the pipe, the thawing process could take between one and six hours.

If the above steps do not resolve the issue, customers can contact 311 and someone from Toronto Water will contact them within 24 to 48 hours to discuss the situation and an approximate timeframe for investigation. Customers who are told that their private pipes are frozen may wish to contact their own plumber.

With extreme cold temperatures forecast to continue this weekend, customers are encouraged to take the following steps to prevent their pipes from freezing:

  • Consider leaving a tap open to allow for a very thin stream of water so there is some movement of water in the pipes.
  • Insulate all pipes that are susceptible to freezing, especially near outer walls and in crawl spaces, the attic and garage. This can be done with foam pipe covers available from building supply or home improvement stores.
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen, bathroom and laundry cabinet doors to allow warm air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • If leaving for an extended period of time, turn off the water at the main service valve in the basement and open the taps to drain the water from the pipes.

Since February 14, the City has also received approximately 200 calls about frozen or leaking water meters. In situations involving water meters, customers should contact 311 and Toronto Water will investigate within 24 hours.

Under the Water Supply Bylaw, customers are responsible for ensuring that their water meter does not freeze. Freezing can be prevented by wrapping the meter with insulation or by keeping the area where it is located above freezing temperatures. If, during investigation, the water meter is found to be frozen, the City will install a replacement meter, which will be charged to the customer on their next utility bill.

In addition to responding to no water and meter calls, Toronto Water crews continue to respond to watermain breaks. Crews are currently working to repair 50 watermain breaks. Since January 1, Toronto Water has responded to more than 450 breaks.

More information is available at http://www.toronto.ca/water

Toronto is Canada’s largest city, the fourth largest in North America, and home to a diverse population of about 2.8 million people. It is a global centre for business, finance, arts and culture and is consistently ranked one of the world’s most livable cities. Toronto is proud to be the Host City for the 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games. For information on non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can visit http://www.toronto.ca, call 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or follow us @TorontoComms

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