St. Joseph, MI seeing record breaking numbers in water main brea - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

St. Joseph, MI seeing record breaking numbers in water main breaks

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More cold weather often means more problems; and this winter just won't let up! One of those Michiana cities seeing problems is St. Joseph Michigan, where they're breaking records when it comes to water main breaks.

City Public Works Director Derek Perry says, "1998 was basically a record year for us, and we've already surpassed that." Back in 1998, the city saw 36 broken water mains. Since December of last year, the city has had 42 breaks on their tab and 8 were just added last weekend. Normally, St. Joe only sees about 20 breaks a winter season. Back in 2005, they only saw 5.

"What used to be a quick dig, you're now busting through 2 [feet] of concrete before you get through anything," says Bruce Binger, owner of B&Z Company which does excavation work. He has been called in by the city to help with the overload of broken water mains. Binger says crews have been called around the clock, with most of the water main breaks happening between the hours of 9:00pm and 6:00am. Binger recalls, "I've actually had a water department guy knock at my door at 12 o'clock at night, and I show up in my jammies, and he goes, 'I hate to do this to you man, but we need some help. We got 3 broken water mains at the same time.'"

Binger says this winter's deep freeze has created extra pressure on pipes and that's why he and his crews have been working so hard and punching overtime. What used to be a 4 hour job, is now taking crews 8 to 10 hours. In some cases days, he says, "It's 2 degrees outside. Every movement takes twice as long, because you're bundled up like an Eskimo. It's really tough on them."

One break this winter happened at the Main Street and Lake Boulevard intersection. It took crews 14 days to fix that, and about 5.5 million gallons of water were lost. The price for that repair was around $13,000. A total of 12 breaks in January happened with 86,000 gallons of water lost, and in December, 49,000 gallons of water was lost.

The City has developed a close relationship with the outside crews to stay on top of things. In addition to paying those extra teams, the city has shelled out $28,000 dollars in overtime costs for city employees. Normally, the city only spends about $13,000 on overtime. "We know they're going to happen.  We just have to be ready for them," says Perry.

Perry says he's not worried as far as the budget goes. He says the city has saved money from previous warmer winters where they didn't see an overflow of main breaks.

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