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Commercial contractor thaws pipes using only warm water

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A small boutique commercial contractor claims he was able to do what city hall said is not possible – thaw a frozen water line buried underneath a city street using only warm water.

Jaret Horbatiuk said he jerry-rigged a thawing device using $600 worth of parts bought at a local big box store and restored water service to a Wolseley neighbourhood home earlier today.

Horbatiuk, of Tractus Projects, said he used a high-pressure washer and 200 feet of narrow hose to feed a stream of luke-warm water to thaw a block of ice in the city’s water line.

"It took us about 90 minutes," Horbatiuk said. "We were able to get her thawed."

The Kirkpatrick family had been without water at their Evanson Street home for 29 days when Horbatiuk, a friend, offered at no cost to see if he could come up with a method to thaw their water lines.

"The city came out, said the freeze was on their side, but their electric thawing machine couldn’t get it done," Jeff Kirkpatrick said, adding the city was in the process of digging down to the water main across the street from his home when Horbatiuk did the trick.

"I’m super-excited," said Pam Kirkpatrick, adding the city had just provided them with a temporary service through a hose connection to a neighbour. "Jaret and the crew were very confident."

Horbatiuk’s jerry-rigged device succeeded where city officials said it would not,

As late as this morning, water and waste director Diane Sacher said various methods suggested by private contractors were able to thaw only frozen pipes on private property but were unsuccessful in thawing water lines buried underneath city streets.

City officials have repeatedly said using steam or hot water is only successful when the freeze is on private property.

But Horbatiuk said at the Kirkpatrick’s, the water line was frozen solid from across the street, and his device cleared it.

A city spokeswoman said Horbatiuk is encouraged to contact the city and do it again on a section of frozen city pipe.

"We would welcome the help, as our goal is to restore water service to our customers as quickly as possible," the spokeswoman said.

Horbatiuk said he fed the narrow hose into the Kirkpatrick’s water line from inside their home, after removing the water meter.

The hose hit some ice halfway across the Kirkpatrick’s front lawn, he said, adding that was when they began feeding in luke-warm water using a high-pressure washer.

Horbatiuk said as the ice melted, he worked the hose along the water line: up to the Kirkpatrick’s sidewalk, underneath the street to the opposite boulevard to the water main.

"It was all ice from half-way underneath their front yard to right across the street," Horbatiuk said, "But it worked."

Horbatiuk said when he offered to help the Kirkpatricks, his intent was to design a system that other contractors could also build, using inexpensive materials, easily available locally.

"There’s no way one or two companies could do this work alone and tackle all the properties with frozen water pipes," Horbatiuk said. "I’d eventually like to make some money doing this but there’s enough frozen homes for a lot of people to get involved."

Horbatiuk said he will spend the next few days refining the device and then tackle another house on Monday.

"If that works, then my next call is to the city and ask them to sit down and talk," Horbatiuk said.


Updated on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 8:27 PM CDT: Adds photo

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