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Pequot Lakes dealing with frozen water, sewer services

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One family received help for frozen water services at their home, but that left Pequot Lakes City Council members wondering Tuesday, March 4, what they would do if 100 more residents showed up looking for help.

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“We don’t have a policy for this,” said Mike Loven, city public works supervisor. “We need council approval or direction.”

The council heard a plea from Trevor Schwirtz on Isabelle Drive, who said his family — which includes his wife and two children, ages 2 and 3 — was without water for five days in early February because of frozen water services. The city fixed the problem, but the services froze again Monday, March 3.

The council agreed to have a city crew work to get the water back at the Schwirtz home, and ultimately decided to handle such requests on a case-by-case basis.

Pequot Lakes is just one of many cities in the state dealing with this issue this winter, which has been cold enough to send frost seven feet into the ground. The fear is the problem will worsen before it gets better, as warmer temperatures drive the frost deeper before it goes out.

The city has all commercial businesses on a freeze run, asking those businesses to run a pencil-width stream of cold water continuously to prevent pipes from freezing. Roughly 25 homes that have reported problems with frozen sewer or water services, or that are at the end of a water or sewer main and thus more susceptible to problems, also have been contacted to be on the freeze run.

The city will adjust the water bills for these businesses and homes by looking at last year’s bills and finding an average.

Pequot Lakes faces a somewhat unique problem in that the city has only so much room to store the water being run.

“If we run too many taps, we could be in trouble,” Loven told the council.

“We can keep the water up to a point,” he said by phone Monday, explaining that the city has a pond system to store effluent discharge, and until the city can again use its spray irrigation fields, those ponds can only hold so much water.

“We could turn on every faucet to keep pipes from freezing, but we don’t have the capacity at the other end to store all that water,” Loven said.

The city has two five-acre ponds that are each 13 feet deep. Spray irrigation can’t be used after the fall crop is harvested in the fall and until the ground is thawed and crops are starting to grow in the spring. That has ranged from the first part of April some years to June last year, Loven said.

“It depends on Mother Nature,” he said.

Nancy Vogt can be reached at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her at facebook.com/PEJNancy and on Twitter @PEJ_Nancy.

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