City of St. John water tower now unfrozen, awaiting final repairs

Local News

2/12/21, 11:45 a.m.

St. John Mayor Rodney Phelps said the water tower is thawed out as of Friday morning, and crews were able to install the piece of insulation that was knocked off during a windstorm.

He said the priority now is making sure the circulating pump in the tower is repaired. This will keep the water from freezing again.

2/11/21, 9:39 p.m.

It’s been four days since St. John’s water tower froze, leaving it without any extra storage — which could be dangerous in the case of a fire.

“We’ve had some battles, but we’ll get it fixed,” said St. John Mayor Rodney Phelps.

It’s been a long few days for the St. John community.

The water tower froze earlier this week after a piece of insulation was knocked off during a windstorm last month.

“Moving water keeps a water tower thawed out and the water wasn’t able to move through that frozen pipe and it limited the function of the water tower,” said Ward Heidbreder, the technical adviser for North Dakota Rural Water Systems Association.

“The pressure was almost up to 100 pounds and it only usually about 60,” said Phelps.

Some town employees spent the next three days manually adjusting the pressure to make sure people didn’t lose water pressure in their homes.

Phelps says the Rural Water Association also got involved.

“They put a valve on one of the hydrants where our pressure is letting off there and that’s where we’re wasting the water on the ground right now,” he said.

Another way to reduce water consumption is having kids at home learning virtually instead of in the classroom where a lot of water is used.

While that helps, in the meantime, contractors are battling the freezing temperatures to get the exposed pipe insulated

Then they can start thawing out the tower — using steam.

The main concern is for the safety of the 341 people in town, which is why an emergency declaration was put in place on Wednesday.

“If there’s a structure fire and the need for more water is here, the water is not available because there’s no storage at this time. So as part of the emergency declaration, that also starts the system of mutual aid between fire districts so fire protection will be coming from neighboring communities,” said Heidbreder.

He adds that the sub-zero temperatures have affected two other towers over the last few days.

“The city of Goodrich experienced the same problem last week. The entirety of last week. Souris was starting to freeze yesterday and we were able to get enough water moving there to get the tower functioning again. This is going to be a common phenomena across the state,” said Heidbreder.

They’re hopeful to have the tower thawed and running again by the end of the week

The total cost for repairs is in excess of $100,000, which the city auditor says is being paid for with a low-interest loan from the Bank of North Dakota.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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