News Feature | March 17, 2015

Residents Done Flushing Toilets With Melted Snow

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

One reason Syracuse residents are excited for spring: They are sick of flushing the toilet with melted snow. 

Just ask Robert Steingraber, whose frozen service lines left him without water for over 10 days. The lines finally thawed in early March, Syracuse Media Group reported

"Steingraber is one of more than 100 Syracuse residents whose water pipes have frozen this year. To get by, he bought drinking water for himself and his dog, and filled 5-gallon pails with snow to melt for water to flush the toilets," the report said.

Observers say this has been the worst winter in decades for water pipes in Central New York. "This winter has brought an unprecedented number of complaints from people who have no water because the service line from the city main to their house is frozen," the report said. 

"Many water officials are calling this the worst winter in decades. From Ithaca to Watertown and beyond, frost [had] extended as much as six feet deep — twice the normal depth — causing water lines to freeze," Syracuse Media Group previously reported.  

Even as spring approaches and temperatures climb past 40 degrees, some pipes still had not thawed. "I just got four calls this morning,'' said Deborah Somers, the water commissioner, per the March 9 report. 

It was not just the winter temperatures that created challenges with water infrastructure this year. 

For Steingraber, the problems began in February "when a National Grid crew accidentally broke his water line while repairing a natural gas main, he said. A city water crew came that night, fixed the water pipe and briefly restored his service, Steingraber said. But by the next morning, his water was off again. His service line had frozen. Now that his water is running again, city officials have advised him to leave a faucet running until April to prevent a recurrence," the report said, citing Steingraber. 

Syracuse's infrastructure problems will not entirely melt away when it gets warmer. The city has some hefty water challenges to tackle in the coming years. The estimated cost to replace the water mains in Syracuse is $726 million, according to the Daily Orange. "In 2014, there were 391 water main breaks. In the first six weeks of 2015 there [had] already been 45 water main breaks," the report said.