Cold weather complicates fixing burst pipes


BUTTE, Mont. - The Butte Public Works Department and city officials are paying close attention to the city's aging pipes and predicted cold weather this weekend. When a water pipe burst Wednesday night, it sent Butte-Silver Bow's pipe repairs crews scrambling to track down the break. "It'll ice up the roads really fast," said Leak Gang Operator Jesse Tracy. "It'll cause a big mess so we have to get on these leaks A.S.A.P" Tracy was on the leak crew that fixed the pipe on Wyoming Street. He tells me the 80 year-old pipe burst from old age, but cold weather and frozen ground complicated those efforts. "The frost line is down about four feet," he said. Frost in the ground caused problems for workers trying to track down the leak, the pipe actually broke 20 feet south of where it exploded from the ground. Workers explain the bitter cold temperatures are a problem because frost build-up can do two things, create a barrier between the surface and the pipe making it tougher to find the leaks and frost can also cause the ground to shift, especially during freezing and thawing, and that can break pipes. "With the ground moving so much you know heaving and sinking and rising that could have an adverse affect on some of the water mains," said Tracy. One area crews tell us they are not too concerned with is snow, the Public's Works crews tell us the snow can help insulate the ground, protecting from that freeze and thaw cycle. Leak Gang Foreman Mark Powers tells us the state wants to resurface Harrison Avenue in the spring. Then the city will replace the line underneath.