Frozen out: Cary couple frustrated with frozen water lines

CARY – About a week and a half ago, Rob and Hollie Savage came to their home on Hill Street and didn’t have water.

They had left the water dripping in some of their sinks, but the pipes still froze.

The couple and their 2-year-old son, Kain, have had to shower at other people’s houses, and avoided gathering dirty dishes with no way to wash them.

It eventually was determined that the water service line froze under the street from the water main to the couple’s b-box, where the shutoff valve is located.

According to village code, all service lines and repairs to those lines from the water main to the house are the responsibility of the homeowner.

After getting an estimate of $4,000 to fix the problem, the couple said it had to find a different solution.

“I don’t have the money to pay to do this,” Rob Savage said.

A few days ago, with the help of a plumber, the couple was able to connect a garden hose to a neighbor’s house to get water.

However, the couple say they were mostly frustrated with the village’s response.

“They keep saying we’ll see what we can do and they’ll call us back, and they don’t call us back,” Hollie Savage said.

An employee from the village did come out when the problem was initially discovered, and the employee checked the meter and said the couple needed to call a plumber.

However, after calling multiple times for help and updates, they say the village never followed through with possibly connecting their house to a neighbor.

“I would have been perfectly OK if they came out the next day, hooked us up with the water, this is what the code says, let’s figure this out, and really figure it out, instead of saying I’ll get back and not calling us back.” Hollie Savage said. “That’s where we feel our hands are tied.”

Hollie said she eventually left a message with Village President Mark Kownick, and she received a phone call back from Village Administrator Chris Clark.

Clark said the village left notices hanging on doors of houses in known trouble areas advising residents to keep faucets dripping during the deep freeze, to help keep the pipes from freezing.

He said he spoke to the Savages multiple times since their water service froze, and had yet to hear back from them.

“We presumed they were working with a plumber,” Clark said.

Clark said there have been a number of homes in the village with similar problems, and every situation is different. Some service lines from the water main are 150 feet long, making them difficult to thaw. Sometimes the issue occurs when people go out of town.

Whether the village would be able to fix the pipes for a household from the main to the b-box is another issue. Clark said village crews are working on plowing snow and tending to water main breaks, which can take 12 to 18 hours to fix.

“Our code is unique,” Clark said. “It states what it states. It’s not just one property owner we would have to work on if this would change ... it’s multiple property owners and contractor costs.”

In towns such as Crystal Lake and Lake in the Hills, the municipality is responsible for the service line from the water main to the b-box, where the valve to turn water off and on is located. The resident is responsible for the service line from the b-box to the house.

Now that the Savages have connected to another house for water, neither their neighbor nor the Savages will be charged for the extra water, Clark said.

“Certainly we’re concerned about the family,” Clark said. “No one knows how long the pipes will be frozen.”

“We will continue to monitor their property, there’s a temporary fix with the house to house process,” Clark added.

Hollie Savage said she would like to see the code changed where the village would be responsible for the service line up to the b-box.

“It was never the expectancy to get them out here with trucks and digging everything up, but just acknowledging something and help us out,” Rob Savage said.

Jim Stewart, who is the owner of H.R. Stewart Plumbing, Heating and Cooling in Cary, said water service lines that run under the pavement are more susceptible to freezing. Snow that is on the ground in a yard acts as a good insulator.

He said excavating and using steam to thaw a service line is a labor intensive process and can start at $1,300.

“A lot of people don’t want to go through the expense of digging up their water service,” Stewart said.
Stewart added it would take at least a month for the ground to thaw for good.

He added people have a false sense of security when it warms up that the pipes will thaw out themselves. However, the ground can freeze again.

“We have stuff that hasn’t frozen in 40 years freezing,” Stewart said.

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