Elk Mound freezing up, running water too

By LeAnn R. Ralph

ELK MOUND — Elk Mound has now joined the ranks of municipalities in this area asking residents to run water in an attempt to keep water laterals and mains from freezing.

As of the Elk Mound Village Board’s March 5 meeting, Elk Mound has had five freeze-ups, according to Mark Levra, public-works-director-in-training.

Elk Mound residents will have to keep their water running until further notice, said Terry Stamm, director of public works.

Colfax, Wheeler and Boyceville issued run water notices several weeks ahead of Elk Mound.

To date, Colfax has had about 40 water laterals that have frozen.

Elk Mound has either been using a portable welder or a steam jetter for thawing the frozen water lines, Stamm told the village board.

The cost to thaw each line is between $500 and $1,000, he said.

The Elk Mound public works department will take care of thawing the lateral the first time it freezes up, but after that, because the run water notice has been issued, it is up to the homeowner to pay for thawing the lateral, Levra said.

The first freeze-up is at the expense of the utility, unless the utility has given notice about running water before that, then it would still be the homeowner’s expense for the first freeze-up, Stamm said.

Several village board members wondered about Elk Mound having its own equipment for thawing water lines.

The cost of a steam jetter would be about $3,000, Levra said.

If Elk Mound owned thawing equipment, it would provide a service to homeowners and could end up saving the residents money during bitterly cold winters, said Andy Peterson, village president.

Using a portable welder is associated with the risk of starting structures on fire, Stamm said, but the welder thaws the frozen lines much faster.

A steam jetter, on the other hand, only thaws about an inch of water line an hour, and at least one lateral was frozen for 75 feet, Stamm said.

Peterson wondered if there was any risk of starting structure fires with the steam jetter.

No risk at all with steam, Levra said.

Stamm said he was hoping for a long, slow thaw this spring. If the temperature above ground warms up quickly and the ground starts to warm up more quickly, frost heaves could result in broken water mains, he said.

Elk Mound has 63 storm drains, and on the day of the village board meeting, Levra said he had worked to clear six inches of ice off of 20 drains.

Public works employees are keeping an eye on any water standing in the street to make sure that it is from melting snow and not from a broken water main, Stamm said.

Stamm said that he and Levra would research more cost estimates for a steam jetter to thaw water laterals and would bring the information back to the Elk Mound Village Board at the next meeting March 19.