Bangor Water

Article Title: FAQ

Article Content

Billing and Payments

1. When do I get my water bill?

We bill our customers on a quarterly basis (90 days+/-). We bill a different section of our service area each week during the 13-week quarter. Call our office to find out when your area is being billed.

2. How can I get my water bill?

We will mail your water bill to you. After you receive your first bill, you may also sign up for Bangor Water’s Paperless Billing. You will receive an e-mail notification that your bill is ready to download and/or pay.

Even if you don’t sign up for paperless billing, you can view your most recent bills at our website. You’ll need your account number to access the information.

3. When is my water bill due?

Your bill is due 28 days from the billing date shown on the bill. Bills are mailed on Friday and are due four Fridays later.

4. How can I pay my water bill?

You can:

  • Mail a check to PO Box 1129 Bangor ME 04402-1129
  • Pay through Bangor Water’s Paperless Billing. There is no fee for a direct debit to your checking account (EFT transaction); there is a fee for using a debit or credit card.
  • Pay at our office. We also have a drop slot by our front door for after-hours payments.

5. What if my water bill, my online account, and my personal records indicate different water balances due?

Sometimes the timing of mailing bills and/or posting payments, or the addition of late fees means the balances don’t match. Call our office. In general, the most timely balance is the one in our in-house billing system.

Paying your bill several days in advance of the due date helps minimize discrepancies.

If you use a “bill pay service” through your financial institution, remember that a paper check must be printed and mailed to us. Although payment may have been deducted from your account, it doesn’t mean we have received it yet.

6. Is your website secure?

Online access to bills and payments are managed through a third-party vendor who provides security for your information. When you are registering as a user or making a payment through our website, you are working on the vendor website. We do not have access to your financial information, and we have limited access to other information.

7. What if I can’t pay my water bill?

Contact us as soon as possible. Don’t wait until we come to shut your water off. We may be able to direct you to financial resources (such as www.maine211.org), or set up a payment plan for you.

8. What if I don’t pay my water bill?

We follow collection procedures as detailed by the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Approximately 18 days after the due date of your bill, we will assess a finance charge and mail you a Disconnection Notice.

Approximately 25 days after the due date of your bill, we are required to post a notice at the front door of RENTAL PROPERTIES ONLY informing the tenants that the water may be shut off.

Approximately 33 days after the due date of your bill, we will come to your property and knock on the door.

  • The balance plus the collection fee must be paid at this time.
  • If the bill is not paid, we will disconnect the water service.
  • Service can be reconnected when the outstanding balance plus the reconnection fee are paid, and any other conditions are met.

9. What if my payment is declined?

If your payment – whether paper or electronic – is denied by a financial institution, we will assess a dishonored payment fee (as allowed by the Maine Public Utilities Commission) of:

  • $10 for paper checks
  • $15 for electronic payments

We will mail you a notice allowing three additional business days for you to redeem the payment. If the payment is not redeemed, we will disconnect water service.

Water Quality

1. Where does the water come from?

Floods Pond in Otis. The lake was chosen over 60 years ago for its water quality and isolated location. Water officials at that time purchased the land directly adjacent to the lake to protect water quality, and now own or protect 99 percent of the land in the entire watershed area.

  • Gated access helps protect the area within the watershed boundary. It provides security for our facilities, and minimizes erosion.
  • There is no boating or swimming on the pond; that minimizes bodily contact with drinking water, gasoline spills from boats, and invasive plants.
  • There are no buildings other than Bangor Water facilities within the watershed; that eliminates industrial toxins, runoff from pesticides and fertilizers, and domestic livestock as carriers for contamination.

Because the pond is so protected, the water does not need to be filtered and requires minimal treatment.

We have maintained our Exemption to Filtration for 25 years. There are fewer than 60 unfiltered systems in the United States, and eight — including Floods Pond — are in Maine. In comparison, filtration is required for the approximate 12,500 surface water supplies across the nation. We undergo an annual watershed survey by the State of Maine to ensure that we continue to meet all criteria for an unfiltered public water system.

2. Why do we need to disinfect the water?

Floods Pond is an excellent source of drinking water because it is so protected from contaminants. Nonetheless we use various treatment methods to ensure we deliver safe drinking water to your tap.

The disinfection of public water supplies – not prevalent until the mid-1900s – has all but eliminated typhoid, cholera, and dysentery. Today’s regulations require that we test not only for elements that cause water-borne diseases, but also for a host of other potential hazards.

3. How do we treat our water before distribution?

Our disinfection process is two-part:

  • Ozone/ultraviolet light disinfection systems are used on the untreated water
  • Chloramines are added to maintain the “disinfected state” as water travels into the 200 miles of water mains in our distribution system

The treatment process finishes with:

  • pH adjustment for corrosion control
  • fluoride for dental health (0.70 mg/L – lowest level recommended by the CDC)

Your drinking water has met or surpassed all state and federal drinking water quality requirements. Thanks to the protected nature of Floods Pond, very few regulated compounds are found in the water before or after it is treated, and many are naturally occurring at low detection levels.

4. Is there lead in my water?

Lead is not found in Floods Pond; there is no lead in the water when it leaves the treatment facility; and the District uses piping and materials that do not add lead to the water. None of the service lines to individual buildings are lead. We adjust the pH of our water to reduce corrosivity as part of our treatment process.

Buildings typically fail lead testing due to internal plumbing, i.e. the use of lead solder for plumbing joints and/or fixtures such as faucets containing lead. When we test for lead (beginning in 1992), we are required to use “worst case scenario” homes that are known to have lead components.

You can reduce your potential exposure to lead by replacing your household components containing lead with “lead-free” varieties. When water has been sitting unused for several hours, you can minimize any potential lead exposure simply by flushing your cold water tap for 2 to 3 minutes before using it for drinking or cooking.

5. Are there pharmaceuticals in my water?

We’ve tested our water for pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, antidepressants, hormones, and pain relievers. None have been found in our water, either in untreated water from Floods Pond nor after the water has been treated.

Most pharmaceuticals come from the discharge of wastewater and septic facilities, as a result of people flushing medications down the toilet or from drugs being excreted from the body. We are fortunate the Floods Pond watershed is well protected, with no wastewater infiltration nor buildings other than those belonging to Bangor Water.

6. Why is fluoride added to my water?

We are mandated by law to add fluoride if a majority of customers vote to do so. In Bangor, a referendum held in 1967 supported the addition of fluoride to improve city residents’ dental health. We dose at 0.70 mg/L which is the lowest level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

7. Is my water hard or soft?

The water is very soft at 5.7 mg/L.

Range (mg/L) Rank
1 – 75 Soft
75 – 150 Moderate
150 – 300 Hard
More than 300 Very hard

8. Can I use the tap water for home dialysis?

No, the water must be treated before it comes in close contact with blood during dialysis. Chlorines are one example of substances that need to be removed. Consult your medical professional for further information.

9. Can I use the tap water for aquariums?

No, the water must be treated first to remove disinfectants. Consult your local pet store for further information.

10. Should I use a water filter system?

Your water meets all drinking water standards. It’s a personal choice if you wish to install a filter system.

11. Why does my water sometimes look rusty?

Some parts of the distribution system have older cast iron mains. When water moves through those pipes faster than usual – i.e. a hydrant has been opened for flushing or firefighting – discolored water can occur. This discoloration can typically be flushed away by letting the cold water run for a few minutes.

12. Why does my water sometimes look cloudy?

The cloudiness is caused by tiny air bubbles, most often occurring when the water is colder. The bubbles will rise to the top of your container and disappear, just like carbonation bubbles in soda.

13. Why do you flush fire hydrants?

We actually flush our entire system every other year by opening hydrants in a sequential manner. This allows us to remove any particles in the line; these are typically iron deposits that form as pipes corrode.

By flushing in a specific sequence, we ensure that “clean” water moves across the system, typically from east to west. By flushing at a specific flow rate, we ensure that flushing is effective while disrupting water pressure as little as possible to nearby customers.

14. Where can I find more information on my drinking water?

We publish a water quality report (also called a Consumer Confidence Report) every year. It is mailed to customers receiving a water bill, and is available on our website.

New Water Lines

If there is no water line installed in the ground to serve your location, contact our Engineering Department.

Is public water available?

The first step is to determine if there are existing facilities in your area.

In areas where facilities are not present, the water main would have to be extended at your cost after a main extension agreement was completed.

There is public water. Is there a service line already installed (stubbed in)?

The next step is to determine if service already exists to the property. In most situations, we can tell you over the phone but there are times that we may have to verify the information on site; there is no charge for this visit.

If the water service line is stubbed into the property, the customer must connect service line into the building, and the line must pass inspection.

I do not have a service stub; how do I connect to public water?

We will provide Information on the size and location of the water main that the new service line will connect to. Your contractor can then schedule a time with us to observe the tap into the water main. Once the service line is run into the building, the work must be inspected.

Service has been extended to the building and inspected. How do I get a meter and have the water turned on?

Once internal plumbing is completed and meets our specs, the person responsible for paying the water bill must:

  • Complete an Application for Service
  • Pay the service establishment fee
  • Schedule an appointment for a service worker to install a meter and turn on the water.

Water Meters and Backflow Prevention

Where is the water meter?

If you have a basement, the meter is probably there. Meters are installed in the water line, typically where the pipe comes through the foundation wall (most of the time, this is the wall facing the street). If you do not have a basement, the meter is probably in a utility closet.

Meters must be in a warm, dry location that is accessible to a service worker. If the meter freezes or is otherwise damaged, the customer has to pay for its replacement.

The meters belong to Bangor Water, but we don’t own or maintain anything else inside the building. If a meter is damaged (often by freezing), it is replaced with a new meter and the customer is responsible for the cost. Meter styles used today involve quite a bit of technology, and replacement is less expensive than repair.

We have specific installation requirements for meters, and the most important one is that the meter must be accessible for servicing. If you place a wall, panel, shelves, boxes, appliances, or other objects in front of or around the meter, you will be asked to remove/move the object. Other requirements involve how high off the floor or down from the ceiling the meter must be, how much room there must be around the meter for our service worker, etc.

What does the water meter do?

The meter measures all water coming into the house. It doesn’t matter if the water is used deliberately (running the dishwasher, for example) or lost through a leak (running flush); the meter is meant to record any water passing through it.

How do you get the reading from the meter in order to send me a bill?

With very few exceptions, we can read the water meter without entering your building.

  • More than 93 percent of our meters are equipped with a transmitter unit that sends the meter reading in a pulse; we pick up the pulse with a laptop computer as we drive by.
  • The remaining meters are equipped with a remote reader, mounted on the outside of the building and wired to the meter inside. Our meter reader walks up to the building, and enters the reading by hand in the laptop.

We install lead-free meters that use a battery-powered transmitter to send the reading from the water meter inside your building to a receiver carried in our meter reader’s vehicle.

We began converting water meters to radio-read units in 2000, and to date we have converted about 94% of our 11,000 meter installations (located in seven communities).

Our meters with transmitter units:

  • Are not connected to your telephone line, your electrical system, or your cable/satellite system
  • Do not use cell towers to transmit the meter ID and meter reading.
  • Do not allow us to read the meter from the office; we must drive within about 700 feet of your building.
  • Do not transmit customer information, such as names, addresses, or account numbers. The meter ID and the meter reading are the items contained in the transmission

Is the meter safe?

We believe it is. For comparison purposes:

Device Output
CMP’s SmartMeter® transmits 1.0 watts of power
A typical cell phone transmits 0.6 to 1.0 watts of power
Bangor Water’s meter transmits 0.1 watts of power at the meter
0.025 at two feet
0.001 at 10 feet

Each transmission lasts 0.007 seconds. Transmitters are FCC compliant.

How do I read the water meter?

Water meters read left to right, like a car odometer. (Don’t include the numbers after the decimal point, numbers with a black background, or a stationery “zero.”) See our quick reference guide for basic instructions on reading your water meter.

How do I know how much water I use?

Water meters measure water in “hundred cubic feet.” There are 748 gallons of water in each hundred cubic foot.

Example:

On the water bill covering April 15 to July 19 (95 days), the water use is 25 HCF.
Convert to gallons: 25 x 748 = 18,700 gallons
Divide by days: 18,700 / 95 = 196 gallons per day

How can the meter help me find a leak?

Pick a time when you will be away for awhile, perhaps over a weekend. Write down the reading on the meter when you leave and again when you return. If the dials have moved while the house has been empty, something is leaking enough to draw water through the meter. (Remember to disable any auto-use devices such as a hose on a timer.)

Who owns the water meter?

Bangor Water owns the meter. The remainder of the indoor plumbing (pipes, valves, backflow preventer) are owned by the customer.

How old is the water meter?

It’s important that the water meter accurately measure water and accurately transmit the reading. We replace meters on a schedule approved by the Maine Public Utilities Commission; most residential meters are replaced about every 15 years. Larger meters (bigger than 2-inch) are replaced per MPUC guidelines.

We will change a meter more often if we believe there is a problem with it, or if the customer asks us to test it.

What’s a backflow preventer?

A backflow prevention device or “cross-connection control device” is designed to allow water to flow in only one direction – from the street into the building. It prevents water already in your building’s plumbing from “backflowing” into the line in the street, and making its way into the rest of the water system.

This backflow protection is particularly important for buildings where high hazard liquids might get “cross connected” with our water line, i.e. greenhouse irrigation system, beauty salon, mortuaries, dental facilities, food prep facilities, or facilities using antifreeze materials in their piping.

  • Backsiphonage may occur during a significant change in pressure in the public water system. For example, your hose is hooked to a chemical sprayer for fertilizing your lawn or washing your windows. Down the street, public works opens a hydrant to fill a street-cleaning truck. Because of the drop-in pressure in the main, water from your chemical sprayer could be siphoned from the container, through the house’s plumbing, and back into the public water system.
  • Backpressure may be created when a source of pressure (such as a pump) creates a pressure greater than that in the water main. For example, if the pump supplied a garden pond, the pond water could be pumped back into the public water system.

The backflow device is owned, installed, and maintained by the customer. There are various “classes” of devices, depending on the hazards in the particular building. High hazard installations are required to be inspected and tested every year to make sure they continue to function correctly.

Every public water utility in Maine is required by the State to have a cross-connection control program. A full copy of our program is available on this site.

Water Use and Conservation

How much water does a typical customer use?

Water use varies considerably and depends on household size, seasonal use (a summer garden or a winter in Florida), leaks, and more.

Generally, one person uses between 50 and 75 gallons per day, or 4500-6750 gallons per quarter. We measure water in “hundred cubic feet,” so one person would typically use 6-9 HCF per quarter. Our average residential customer uses 18 HCF per quarter.

The chart below provides more information:

1 Person Gals low use Gals high use HCF low use HCF high use Cost
Daily Use 50 75 0.07 0.10 $0.46
Monthly Use 1500 2250 2.01 3.01 $13.90
Quarterly Use 4500 6750 6.02 9.02 $41.71
2 People Gals low use Gals high use HCF low use HCF high use Cost
Daily Use 100 150 0.13 0.20 $0.74
Monthly Use 3000 4500 4.01 6.02 $22.27
Quarterly Use 9000 13500 12.03 18.05 $66.82

Why is my neighbor’s bill higher/lower?

There are any number of reasons. The most obvious is number of people in the household. Others are:

  • More or longer showers
  • More loads of laundry
  • Outside watering, car washing, and/or filling a pool
  • Absence from the house for a prolonged period of time
  • More or less water-efficient appliances and fixtures
  • Internal plumbing leaks (running flush, outside faucet left on)

How do I conserve water?

Check for leaks

Leaks that are unnoticed or unfixed send money down the drain. Approximately 75 percent of your water use is in the bathroom (27 percent from toilet flushing). Another 16 percent is used through other faucets (sinks, washers, hoses).

Check the flush:

A flush that leaks consistently

  • Wastes water
  • Increases costs of pumping and treating water
  • Increases your water bill
  • Increases costs of disposal by the City sewer department
Size of Toilet Leak Gallons Wasted per Quarter Increase to Quarterly Water Bill
Small 0.16 per minute = 20,736 gallons $77
Occasional 0.75 per minute = 97,200 gallons $362
Constant 2.00 per minute = 259,200 gallons $965

Signs a flush is leaking:

  • You have to jiggle the handle to make it stop running.
  • You hear the flush running when not in use, or flushes on its own.
  • You see water running down the side of the bowl non-stop.

Find a silent toilet leak:

Put 10-15 drops of food coloring into the toilet tank. DO NOT FLUSH. Wait 20-30 minutes. If colored water appears in the toilet bowl, you’ve got a leak. Leaks are usually the result of 1) a leak at the bottom of the tank around the plunger ball or flapper valve OR 2) at the top of the tank at the overflow tube. Sometimes a flush will overfill for a few seconds, then shut off for a while.

Monitor your meter

Write down the reading on your meter when the property will be empty for at least six hours. When you return, compare the reading on the meter. If the reading has changed while the property has been unoccupied, something in the building is leaking and pulling water through the meter.

Elsewhere in the House

  • If practical, consider higher efficiency washing machines and dishwashers, or low-flow shower heads and flushes.
  • Use your appliances efficiently. Set the dishwasher or clothes washer to the appropriate load size, or wait until you have a full load.
  • Avoid unnecessary rinsing before loading the dishwasher.
  • Wash fruit and vegetables in a basin or stoppered sink, not under running water. Thaw frozen food in your refrigerator, not under running water.
  • Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running water from the tap until it gets cold.
  • Pre-treat heavily soiled items before placing them in the washer to avoid having to wash them twice. Use a minimum of detergent to avoid rinsing more than once. Hand wash and rinse in a stoppered sink, not under running water.
  • Don’t use the toilet as a trash can. You waste gallons of water with each extra flush.
  • Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth, shave, or wash your face.
  • Take shorter showers.

Outside the house

  • Pay attention! Remember to tightly close outside faucets after every use.
  • Watch the clock: Water early or late. Deep-soak the roots; a light sprinkling evaporates quickly.
  • Go native: Select Maine native and drought-tolerant ground covers, shrubs, and trees for landscaping.
  • Design deliberately: Layer plants to create shade for other plants that need it. Group plants that need water while placing drought-tolerant species elsewhere.
  • Mulch it: Mulch retains moisture, controls weeds, and improves the garden’s appearance. Composting organic matter into the soil helps it retain moisture.
  • Mow wisely: Set the mower blade to at least three inches. Cutting the grass to a lower height leads to shallow roots and greater moisture loss.
  • Clean up: Use a broom, not a hose, to clean decks and driveway. Use a bucket to wash the car, and don’t let the hose run.
  • Remember it gets cold: Disconnect the hose, turn off the water to the outside faucet, and drain the pipe. A cracked faucet can let water flow unnoticed into a snowbank. A frozen pipe that breaks just inside your cellar wall will be expensive and messy.

Lead and Drinking Water

For customers of Bangor Water, lead is not found:

  • In our source of supply, Floods Pond in Otis
  • In the distribution pipes that carry water in the street to homes and businesses
  • In any known service line running from the water main into individual buildings (unlike services lines in Flint MI and some other cities)

For Bangor Water customers, the common source of lead in drinking water is:

  • Lead solder used inside the building to join pipes
  • Household fixtures such as faucets manufactured with some lead components

How does water treatment help?

We treat our water to make it less corrosive, and reduce the potential for lead to leech from internal plumbing. Using or running the water on a regular basis further reduces the time that water is in long-term contact with internal plumbing.

Controlling the potential for lead to dissolve into drinking water has been a part of water treatment at Bangor Water since long before the national lead and copper regulation was in place. Our work has included:

  • An intensive effort in the 1970s-80s to identify and remove lead components – such as service lines – throughout our system
  • Treatment of water to reduce “corrosivity”
  • Installation of “lead free” water meters
  • Compliance with required testing beginning in 1992. The types of homes required to be tested are those known to have lead solder, so test results represent a “worst case scenario” of water that has been in contact with the household plumbing for 6-10 hours without use.

After results in 2010 found lead levels at some of these homes to be higher than allowed, we evaluated various options for modifying our water treatment process, and implemented the changes on a trial basis. All testing since the end of 2013 has shown levels of lead at the test homes meet lead regulations.

Consequently, the Maine Drinking Water Program has noted that Bangor Water has returned to full compliance with lead and copper regulation. And of course, test monitoring will continue as required!

How can you reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water?

Replace plumbing fixtures: Faucets, fittings, and valves currently in your home may contain lead. Prior to January 2014, plumbing fixtures with up to 8% lead were legally sold in the U.S. Since then new plumbing fixtures sold in the U.S. are now required to have “not more than a weighted average of 0.25% lead,” essentially lead-free.

In place for more than four years, new products intended for contact with drinking water have the lowest possible lead content. Replacing older plumbing fixtures with lead-free products can further reduce the potential for lead exposure in your home.

Run Water: When the water has not been used for several hours, run the cold water tap for 2-3 minutes before using it for drinking or cooking. This flushes away any lead-containing water — at a cost of about two cents per flush.

Lead dissolves more easily in hot water, so use cold water from a flushed faucet to drink, cook, or prepare baby formula.

Do not boil water to remove lead. Boiling does not reduce or remove lead.

Where else is lead found?

There are many exposures to lead in our environment. It can be found in lead-based paint, soil, household dust, food, and certain types of pottery and porcelain. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 80% or more of a person’s total exposure to lead comes from sources other than drinking water.

Lead-based paint is especially dangerous once it has peeled and broken down into paint chips and dust. Children have the highest risk for ingesting lead and may contact it in dirt, dust, and paint chips. For this reason, it is important to wash children’s hands and toys often.

How to have your water tested?

Contact a certified lab; we have provided a list of some certified labs. The average cost is $30 per test. Test results will give you an understanding of how much lead may dissolve into your water over a non-use period of 6-10 hours.

Boil Water Order

What You Should Know About a “Boil Water” Order

Rarely, Bangor Water issues a “boil water” advisory or order. This may happen:

  • When a water main breaks, and there is a possibility that an illness-causing organism could have entered the water line.
  • Routine testing shows an illness-causing organism is present.

When a boil order is issued, water should not be used unless it is boiled or otherwise disinfected first. The boil order will not be lifted until testing shows the water is safe and poses no threat to public health.

How Do I Disinfect My Water?

Disinfect by boiling:

Use a heat-resistant pan and bring the water to a rolling boil for at least one minute. After cooling, store in clean containers in the refrigerator.

Disinfect with bleach:

Add 1/8 teaspoon of household bleach per gallon of water. (Make sure the bleach contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite, and has no perfumes, dyes, or other additives.)

Can I use the water for:

During a boil order, can I use the water for:
Drinking No
Making coffee No
Brushing teeth No
Baby formula No
Making ice cubes No (both for filling traying and automatic dispensers)
Give to pets No
Laundry Yes
Outside watering Yes (not on items to be consumed such as vegetables or fruit)
Washing hands No. Used bottled water, or an alcohol-based sanitizer.
Washing dishes Some. Use a dishwasher IF the unit has a sanitizing cycle. Otherwise, wash by hand as usual. Then fill the sink with warm water, add a teaspoon of bleach per gallon, and immerse the dishes for five minutes. Remove and let air dry.
Showering Some. Those old enough to avoid swallowing water can bathe. Babies and toddlers often swallow water during bathing without meaning to; using tap water is not advised.

Do I still need to boil water if I have a water filter system?

Probably. Typical carbon-filter systems do not remove the need to boil the water. Check with the water treatment system manufacturer for confirmation.

What if I already drank some water?

You can’t reverse the exposure, but most people will not get sick. Generally, infants, young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk.

Symptoms of a water-borne illness may include diarrhea, cramps, and nausea; they typically appear several hours to several days after exposure; however, these symptoms may be caused by other illnesses as well. Check with your health care provider.

What should I do when the “boil order” is lifted?

Water pipes within the building should be flushed. Open cold water taps first and run for at least five minutes; then open all hot water taps and run for at least 15 minutes.

Individual items – such as dishwashers, clothes washers, humidifiers, medical or health devices, and ice makers – should be run through at least one cycle with clean water after the pipes are flushed.

Cold Weather Tips

Does Cold Weather Require Special Attention?

Frozen or broken water lines are more exasperating and expensive in the winter than in the summer! And you’re responsible for paying for a replacement if your water meter freezes.

Before Winter

  • Disconnect and drain outdoor faucets, and shut them off inside.
  • Patch cracks and holes near pipes. When temperatures approach zero, wind through a small opening can freeze nearby pipes, even though the room temperature is 70 degrees.
  • Insulate pipes in unheated areas such as crawl spaces and garages. Check insulation. Wet insulation freezes fast, making it worse than no insulation at all.
  • Make sure heat can circulate around pipes. Plumbing in an enclosed area such as a closet will freeze.
  • Pay attention to basement piping. Older furnaces lose enough heat to warm basements. Newer energy efficient models do not. If necessary, consider wrapping the pipe with insulation or using UL approved heat tape.
  • Find and tag your inside shut-off valve, and make sure it works BEFORE an emergency arises. This will limit water damage should your inside pipes burst.

If Your Pipes Freeze

  • Don’t use an open flame for thawing. You risk overheating a pipe and causing it to burst, or setting the house on fire.
  • Use a hair dryer or a heat lamp.
  • Use caution and don’t leave the pipes unattended. The pipe may already be broken, and water may pour out when the pipe thaws.

If You Suspect the Line is Frozen Outside

  • Call us as soon as possible. We respond to frozen service calls in the order in which they are received, and other emergencies — such as broken water mains — may take precedence.
  • Our first step is to remove the water meter and check for ice. Sometimes, only the meter is frozen.
  • If the meter is not the problem, we will attempt to determine where the service line is frozen (on the section owned by us or the section owned by the customer). If it is frozen on the customer’s side, the customer is responsible for charges to thaw it. If the line is frozen on our side, we are responsible. If we can’t determine where it’s frozen, the cost of thawing is split.
  • We can use our thawing equipment, or you may choose to hire a plumber or welder to thaw the line. We use a hot-water thawing machine, not electricity. If you choose us to thaw the line, you must authorize our work in writing and be prepared to pay the charges within 30 days.

Winter Maintenance

If you are going away for the winter, we recommend:

  • Checking with your plumber/heating contractor to determine if your heat should remain on, and what, if any, “winterizing” needs to be done.
  • If you will shut the heat off, schedule an appointment with us to shut the water off in the street and remove the meter. If a pipe in the building broke and water leaked by your internal shut-off valve, your building could sustain a lot of damage.

If you leave the heat on, consider setting it at 50 degrees, and have the house checked regularly.