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Worthington water main breaks are nothing new

City of Worthington crews finish up repairs on a broken water main Tuesday afternoon on Nobles Street in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- A string of recent water main breaks is nothing out of the ordinary, according to Worthington Public Utilities Manager Scott Hain. City crews had to deal with breaks on McMillan Street and Nobles Street earlier in the week, and a third break happened early Wednesday near Worthington Middle School.

"For all of 2012, we had a total of 17," reported Hain Wednesday morning. "Since October, the start of winter, we've had eight, according to the water department guys. So it feels like an average year."

Hain admitted that the city crews had been "a little nervous" about the effect the recent drought conditions might have on the city's water main system, but so far it seems to have made little difference.

"Based on the frost depth, it doesn't seem the drought has driven the frost any deeper than normal or there have been any more breaks than normal," Hain explained. "They just always seem to come in spurts -- bad things seem to happen in threes."

Breaks are caused by radical changes in temperature, and Hain predicted that another round of breaks will likely happen in the spring when things start to warm up.

"This does seem to be a little later than usual," he said of the recent breaks. "We usually have a rash in the Christmas to New Year's span, but this year it took a while for things to get cold. This is the longest extended cold snap we've had, and as far as the frost depth, the maximum has been 2½ feet."

When a break does happen, the city crews try to get it fixed as soon as possible, Hain said, so as not to inconvenience residents when they have to turn the water off. Some breaks are harder to deal with than others, such as the one on Nobles County 10 Wednesday morning.

"In addition to being in a ditch bottom, we're dealing with congestion of fiber optic, communications" systems that are in the same location, he said. "With all those providers and everything else, the public right-of-way is getting plugged up. The water main is the deepest thing there, so we have to dig past everybody else to get to it."

Water main breaks "are just a hazard of living in Minnesota," concluded Hain.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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