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Helena officials prepare for water main breaks after some repairs

Posted at 11:20 AM, Feb 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-07 13:20:50-05

With temperatures in the Helena area remaining well below freezing, city leaders will be watching out for water main breaks.

On Wednesday, restoration crews were at the Professional Plaza building on North Montana Avenue, cleaning up the damage from a water main that broke Monday. Employees say most of the offices on the building’s lower floor were flooded, including several health facilities and an investment office.

This was the third water main break Helena crews have had to repair over the last two weeks.

“Typically when we start getting below zero, that’s when we start expecting more of the water main breaks, just because of the frost depth going down and getting closer to the pipes,” said David Knoepke, the city’s interim utility maintenance superintendent.

Knoepke said one of the major causes is large temperature swings, as the ground shifts when it freezes and thaws. The city’s aging infrastructure also contributes.

“Any time you get the movement of soils like that, an imperfection in the pipe or an aged piece of pipe that’s just hanging on, pushed the right way can cause a break,” Knoepke said.

Knoepke said there isn’t much the city can do to prevent breaks. He said they simply have to respond as soon as they can to minimize the damage. He asked the public to contact them as soon as they see water running on the street.

“Obviously, this time of year it’s a bad thing and probably shouldn’t be happening, so just get hold of the city as quickly as possible,” he said.

In a case where a broken main damages private property, Knoepke said the property owners may file a claim with the city. He said they typically try to work with the public to clean up any damage.

The sidewalk around the water main break on North Montana Avenue is still closed because of ice that built up after the water main broke. Knoepke said it will reopen in the coming days, once city crews finish cleaning up the area.

-Reported by Jonathon Ambarian/MTN News