City of Toronto working to address “no water” calls as a result of frozen water service pipes

Workers install a PVC watermain.
Workers install a PVC watermain.

Prolonged, extreme cold temperatures are having an impact on the water service pipes that deliver water to many homes and businesses. As a result, the City is receiving an unprecedented volume of calls from residents and businesses without water.

This morning, Mayor John Tory, City Manager Joe Pennachetti and Toronto Water General Manager Lou Di Gironimo met to discuss the situation and will be establishing a special SWAT team dedicated to working with residents who have no water as a result of frozen pipes outside of their home or building.

“Water is a basic need, and we need to be able to respond faster to get water back into people’s homes,” said Mayor John Tory. “Toronto Water crews are working as hard as they can to respond to the large volume of calls; however, we need more resources to help customers understand what we are dealing with, and when staff will be onsite to investigate each situation.”

Currently, there are approximately 300 properties in which the pipes are frozen due to the extreme cold temperatures, causing the frost line to penetrate deeper into the ground. This number continues to grow as the cold weather persists.

The SWAT team will provide customized care to these residents and businesses to establish a temporary water service connection to a neighbour’s property, which is called a highline. If a highline cannot be established, either for mechanical reasons or if the neighbour would prefer not to install a temporary connection, the property will be put on the priority list to have the outside water service thawed.

Since the cold weather first hit on February 14, the City of Toronto has received close to 2,000 “no water” calls due to frozen pipes. More than 1,200 of these calls were received within the first three days.

In the majority of these cases, investigations have found that the pipes within the dwelling are frozen. More information on what to do if your pipes are frozen and how to thaw your pipes can be found below.

What to do if your pipes are frozen

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 visit their home to conduct an investigation. Toronto Water will contact customers before they arrive to let customers know when they will be onsite.

If the pipes are found to be frozen within the home, customers will be asked to contact a plumber. If the pipes are found to be frozen outside of the home, customers will be referred to the SWAT team for response.