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Contractor launching waterline-thawing business

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It didn’t work for a Provencher Boulevard chocolate shop but contractor Jaret Horbatiuk is launching his homemade thawing machine into business.

"Today was our last day doing favours," Horbatiuk, owner of Tractus Projects, said. "Tuesday we’re doing this as a business."

Horbatiuk was unsuccessful at thawing the frozen waterlines at Chocolatier Constance Popp. He drew another blank later Monday at a home in the North End. But third time lucky, his crew did restore full water service to a house on Renfrew Street in River Heights.

"The line was frozen clear through to the other side of the road," Horbatiuk said of the situation he found at the Renfrew Street house. "But we got it."

Constance Menzies, owner of the chocolate shop, said her Provencher Boulevard shop remains opens for business. While she’s has been bringing in the water she needs to keep her business going on a modified basis, she said she expects to get a temporary line installed soon so she can be fully operational.

Horbatiuk is getting into the business while the city is still unable to get the frozen-pipes situation under control.

City hall reported 68 additional properties reported frozen waterlines between Friday and Monday, bringing the total since November to 2,180.

While the city is making inroads at restoring full water service, it can’t keep pace with the new reports. The number of properties on the waiting list keeps growing, albeit at a slower pace than in previous days. The total now stands at 1,359, with 27 additional properties joining the list since Friday.

Horbatiuk built his high-pressure water machine using parts purchased locally for about $600.

A local manufacturer, Magikist, builds hundreds of similar machines for $2,295 and sells them throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.

But until Monday, city officials have repeatedly stated only the DBH electric-current machines could thaw frozen waterlines buried under streets, adding the high-pressure water devices were only effective at thawing shorter lengths of frozen lines confined to private properties.

However, the city conceded they are now having some luck with four Magikist high-pressure machines.

Steve West, the city’s manager of corporate communications, said city staff have made modifications to the Magikist devices and are now seeing some success on frozen city waterlines.

"With these creative modifications, we have had increased success over the last couple of weeks at thawing city portions of frozen water pipe," West said in an email to the Free Press.  "While not yet as reliable as the DBH electrical thawing machine, staff continue to work to build on this success."

A retired city water and waste department worker told the Free Press last week the city used to solely use Magikist high-pressure machines to thaw frozen pipes but they were difficult to master and the city switched to DBH machines in the 1980s. The retiree said the city likely didn’t have anyone on staff who knew how to use the Magikist machines.

Horbatiuk’s first success came last week, when he restored full water service to an Evanson Street home by thawing the ice inside a city pipe that ran underneath the street.

He repeated the success twice more on the weekend, restoring services to two homes on a cul de sac in St. Vital.

Another man said he also improvised a high-pressure device on the weekend, using an RV pump, and cleared the frozen waterlines on his daughter’s home in East Kildonan.


Updated on Monday, March 24, 2014 at 6:19 PM CDT: complete rewrite

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