Don’t let the spring thaw wash away homeowner budgets

hand-squeezing-dollar-mainThe winter season has been exceptionally hard on our nation this year as we faced heavy rains, extreme cold, drastic temperature changes and record-breaking snowfalls. As a result, our water and sewer lines were subject to hazardous conditions that could drastically affect their life expectancy.

Homeowners around the nation have felt the pain of what these extreme weather conditions have done to our infrastructure. In Georgia, record-breaking cold weather ruptured water, gas and sewer pipes around the state in early January. Crews worked around the clock to service customers who were left without functional water, sewer or heat. In the northern states, several storms dumped foot after foot of snow, closing schools and causing flooding problems.

As we look towards spring and the ground thaws, for most homeowners, danger is still present. Heavy rains and ground shifts can damage pipes on your property. In addition, long periods of drought can also be problematic for infrastructure because of the hard ground. Protect yourself by knowing how to identify a problem before it becomes a catastrophe.

Investing in your aging infrastructure

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Aging infrastructure is a growing concern for homeowners in North America. After the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the nation a D+ rating in infrastructure, many communities took note of the problems facing not only city infrastructure, but homeowners as well.

pinhole leak in a water pipe can release thousands of gallons of clean water into the ground. In areas prone to excessive heat and droughts, water is a precious resource few can afford to waste. Additionally, a leaking sewer system can release thousands of gallons of ground pollution into the environment if left broken. In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified the need to address the aging infrastructure of water and wastewater service lines around the nation as a top priority. People rely on these lines daily to bring fresh water and remove waste from their homes. Their continued functionality is essential to everyday life and maintaining the health and environment of all communities.

While we can’t completely prevent failures to service lines, homeowners can protect their infrastructure with programs like Service Line Warranties of America’s  warranty program.

To learn more about the ASCE infrastructure report card or how the EPA plans to address the aging infrastructure, visit the links below.

For more information, please visit:

American Society of Civil Engineers Report Card
http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

Aging Water Infrastructure
http://www.epa.gov/awi/

Learn about Water
http://www2.epa.gov/learn-issues/learn-about-water

Wastewater Management
http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/wastewater/index.cfm

Myths Busted! Water and sewer lines never break

Repair water pipe

A common myth is that water and sewer lines never break. Out-of-sight, out-of-mind – because the service lines usually lie underground and buried beneath our homes, we don’t think about them. Yet, more than 850 water main breaks occur in North America every day according to www.watermainbreakclock.com!  It is only when the water or sewer line fails (clogs, leaks or breaks) that we give them any thought. Often the pipes or lines for which homeowners are responsible – those that run from outside the home to the public utility connection – are generally believed to last for 40, 50 or even 60 years.  Many factors contribute to the useful lifetime of a homeowner’s water and sewer pipes or service lines, some of which include the material from which the lines are made, the weather and soil conditions.

What causes water and sewer lines to fail?
Root Intrusion
Do you often admire the saplings the former property owner planted some 40 years ago? The roots of those now full-grown trees stretch deep into the ground and could very well be permeating the small cracks in your service lines that are as old or older. The roots grow in the direction of the water source to thrive and, once a small opening in the service line is found, will begin to penetrate the line. Roots invading sewer lines could cause clogs and result in raw sewage seeping into the yard, not to mention an unpleasant odor and soil contamination.

Ground Shifting
As a result of ground movement or shifting, water and sewer line joints may become loosened or dislodged, often causing the pipes to crack, misalign or collapse. Once this happens, it becomes an easy entry point for clay and debris, which will eventually cause the line to clog.

Especially susceptible to shifting are the areas along the West Coast and Pacific Northwest when an earthquake occurs. The shifts can be of such magnitude that damages to the public water and sewer lines could hamper the delivery of fresh, clean water to communities for several days.

Weather
We’ve experienced some extreme fluctuations in temperature, drought conditions and record amounts of rain and snowfall during the past few years. These extremes can cause water and sewer line corrosion and accelerated soil erosion, which affects the quality of the lines. A slight change of only 10 degrees in air or water temperatures can cause significant stress on service lines. For example, water temperatures below 40 degrees can cause the pipes to become brittle and air temperatures at or below 32 degrees cause the ground above it to freeze, thereby increasing stress on the line.

The bottom line – water and sewer lines can and will break. Check out some recent examples of water line breaks and the headaches they’ve caused for homeowners and their communities:

Water Main Break Causes Problems For North Hills Residents
Jan 24, 2014 – ROSS TOWNSHIP (KDKA) – A water main break in Ross Township erupted with such great force Friday morning that water was seen shooting out of the ground. Nearly two dozen homes in the area were left without service. It was a busy morning for crews …

Sewer Main Break Causing Massive Traffic Delays
Jan 24, 2014 – The sewer main break near 44 Bedford Street is causing massive traffic delays and may not be completed in time for the Friday morning commute.