Frozen water pipes cause problems for North St. Paul residents, staff

Sub-zero temperatures have frozen about 35 service pipes in neighborhoods around North St. Paul this winter, leaving some residents without water for less than a day to as long as five days.

Scott Duddeck said he hasn’t seen this many iced-up water lines in one year in the more than 20 years he’s worked with the North St. Paul Public Works Department.

“We’ve never had anything this extreme,” the public works director said. “We’ve had an occasional service freeze here or there. This year is very out of the norm.”

Other Twin Cities suburbs have been experiencing similar troubles, having to repair busted or frozen water systems following more than 40 days of below-zero cold.

Frost has crept deeper into the ground in some areas, increasing the risk of iced-up tubes, Duddeck said.

“Where there’s all the snow cover, it’s fine, because it’s well-insulated,” he said. “If their water service is under the driveway or sidewalks, any of those areas that don’t have any snow cover, it’s where the frost is down in that 6-foot range.”

How long it takes to melt and fix them, depends on the availability of a contractor the city uses to respond to citizens’ complaints, Duddeck said.

“They’re so busy, and it’s such a widespread problem,” he said.

To thaw the icy underground pipes, the contractor hooks an electric charge to the copper service line inside and outside, warming it up, Duddeck said. 

The deep frost probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but Duddeck said he’s hoping for the best, as his crew has been battling hard against snow and ice around town.

The National Weather Service predicts temperatures will dip below zero into early March.

“We’re hopeful that this next cold wave isn’t going to continue to drive the frost even deeper and magnify that problem (of frozen service lines),” he said. “It seems to have subsided somewhat, but, again, that frost is there and it’s going to take a long time to get out.”

Avoid chilling effect

According to a statement, public works departments throughout the region have recommended the following to prevent frozen service lines:

• Take tap water’s temperature frequently by running cold water for a few minutes, then filling up a glass of water.

• Then place a thermometer in a cup with the water running.

• If it’s 35 degrees or colder, or if a building’s water service has frozen in the past, the line could freeze again.

• To lessen the possibility of frozen lines, it’s recommended to run the water continuously, as in 24-7, with a stream the size of pencil lead.

• Run the water until the end of March, or until water is warmer than 40 degrees.

Residents with concerns about freezing pipe’s can contact Scott Duddeck at 651-747-2436 between 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., or call an after-hour emergency line at 651-747-2417.

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7814 and Follow her at

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