Why do Sarnia residents experience frozen water services?

Severe cold can result in frozen water service pipes that prevent water from reaching the homes of impacted residents. The City assigns crews to respond to this issue and works to restore water service to affected properties as soon as possible.

New water service lines in Sarnia are buried about 1.8 metres (6 feet) deep for protection against frost, however older lines, or lines close to storm sewers or private drain connections are less likely to have been buried 1.8 metres (6 feet) deep, making them more susceptible to freezing.

Water service lines most likely to freeze:

  • Pipes exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines.
  • Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.
  • Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.

The City recommends all property owners review plumbing that runs against an outside wall. Property owners are also reminded to shut off outside taps where possible.

What is a water service pipe?

A water service pipe runs underground, connecting a building’s plumbing to a City water main. Every property that receives water from the City of Sarnia’s municipal drinking water system has a water service pipe.

Are my water service pipes at risk of freezing?

If your service pipe has frozen in the past, your pipes are vulnerable to freezing this winter. Additionally, if you removed any preventive measures or insulation installed during the cold winter of 2015-2016, your pipes are at risk.

How to tell if your water services are freezing

If you are experiencing unusually low water pressure, as the lines freeze from the outside to the center narrowing the flow of water. If the exterior of any exposed plumbing has developed a frost on the surface, this indicates that this plumbing is exposed to freezing conditions. Homeowners should check areas including crawl spaces, un-insulated basement (cellars) and under kitchen sinks located against an exterior wall.

What should property owners do if their water service pipe is frozen?

Property owners are responsible for maintaining and replacing water pipes inside their home or business, and from the home or business to the property line. The City of Sarnia is responsible for pipes beyond the property line.

Try to determine if it is the indoor or outdoor plumbing that has frozen, or if the problem is coming from outside.

Try running the cold water taps throughout your home. If even one tap has running water, your issue is likely internal. Contact a qualified plumber to thaw your pipes safely. Never apply an open flame to a frozen pipe; this is extremely dangerous and can cause fire or a sudden explosion of boiling steam.

If all water service to your home has stopped, or you are not sure where the problem is, contact the City of Sarnia’s Public Work’s Department.

How can I help City crews that thaw my service pipe?

  1. Locate the shut-off valve outside your house and clear away the snow.
  2. Clear a path to the water shut-off valve inside your house and remove furniture from the immediate area.

The City of Sarnia is here to help

Contact City of Sarnia at 519-332-0330