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Frigid weather takes heavy toll on pipes in Cranberry area

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Submitted
This is an example of two different sizes of copper pipe, which actually expanded and split from the ice.
Submitted
This is an example of a plastic valve, called pvc, and usually breaks apart into pieces and becomes brittle due to ice.

More than a week after record-breaking cold temperatures caused water lines to freeze and burst in homes throughout the region, many people are still left without water or are dealing with the damage it caused.

“I haven't seen anything like this since 1994,” said Joe Leavens, Cranberry Township's Sewer and water field operations manager. “So many people have been affected.

Workers have been putting in long days to try to restore service to the community as plumbers have work orders piling up.

“Our guys have been averaging close to 14 -hour days,” said Jerry Kennihan, of Kennihan's Plumbing and Heating in Valencia. “We have had hundreds of calls.”

Many homeowners have never faced anything like this and therefore are unsure what to do when a pipe freezes or bursts. The first question Leavens asks is “do you know how to shut off your main water valve?” By turning off the water to the home, damage can be minimized or avoided altogether.

A common misconception is that only older homes are at risk. But according to Kennihan, that is not the case.

“When building a home, it is important to consider freeze protection,” he said. “This involves keeping all of the plumbing within the thermal envelope of the house. But often, to save money, this is ignored when trying to go with the lowest bidder on a job and it's a real shame because in a new home, this should never happen, but it does a lot.”

Considering that winter is less than one month old, more cold days are expected. Experts say there are ways to protect your home.

“You need heat in areas where you have plumbing, including garages,” Leavens said. “Turning on all of your faucets until they drip, both hot and cold, helps keep the water moving and from freezing. It's also a good idea to flush the toilets periodically and run the water every so often for 30 seconds or a minute during extreme cold temperatures.”

Other preventative measures that can be taken include the use of heat tape or heating cable. This is a device that involves attaching a heated cable to the water pipes in areas at risk of freezing.

“This is purely a preventative measure and should be used to prevent a problem not to treat a problem,” said Ed Pfeifer, owner of Pfeifer's Hardware in Mars. “These work great and can simply be turned on when cold weather is coming. If you wait until a pipe freezes, it's often too late.”

The cost to fix damages caused by a burst pipe can be steep and depending on the amount of water damage can pile up quickly.

“If you have any damage, call your insurance company immediately,” Leavens said. “It is surprising how often people forget to do that. A lot of times, people assume the costs themselves when many times it is covered in their insurance plan.”

David McElhinny is the North Bureau Chief with Trib Total Media. For details, call 724-772-6362 or email dmcelhinny@tribweb.com.

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