At busy time for repairs, Philly Water Department has advice for home pipes

Tim Jimenez
January 14, 2019 - 11:34 am

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — With low winter temperatures, the Philadelphia Water Department is in the middle of one of its busiest times of the year. 

The water department has crews on a winter schedule, which means workers who investigate leaks and fix broken pipes are on the job for 12-hour shifts, six days a week. 

Department spokesman John DiGiulio said their team has to be ready for anything and everything during the coldest months of the year.

"Last year we saw an incredibly challenging year for the water department," he said. Between December and March, last winter, there were "almost 700 water main breaks in three months."

Part of the issue: There are a lot of older water mains, which DiGiulio said aren't as flexible as those put in after 1960. 

"The cast-iron mains, which are unfortunately the ones that we see breaking. There's still about 60 percent in the city," he added. 

It's also a time when the pipes inside homes can freeze, which the Water Department says is not its responsibility — the homeowner has to handle it. But officials say homeowners can do a few things to prevent major problems. 

DiGiulio noted homeowners can wrap and insulate pipes in unheated areas, as well as keep the area where the water meter is above 40 degrees. 

And one more thing that may cost residents a few cents: "We know that when you run your water at a slight trickle, moving water is harder to freeze than standing water."