A small commercial contractor claims he can do what city hall has deemed impossible -- thaw a frozen waterline underneath a street using only warm water.
Jaret Horbatiuk said he jerry-rigged a thawing device using $600 in parts he bought at a local big-box store, and restored water service to a Wolseley home Wednesday.
Horbatiuk, of Tractus Projects, said he used a high-pressure washer and 200 feet of narrow hose to feed a stream of lukewarm water to thaw a block of ice in the city's waterline.
"It took us about 90 minutes," Horbatiuk said. "We were able to get (it) thawed."
The Kirkpatrick family of Evanson Street had been without water for 29 days when Horbatiuk, a friend, offered to see if he could come up with a method to thaw their waterlines.
'We would welcome the help, as our goal is to restore water service to our customers as quickly as possible'
"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 Kirkpatrick's wife, Pam, adding the city had just provided them with temporary water service through a hose connection to a neighbour.
"Jaret and the crew were very confident," she said.
Horbatiuk's device succeeded where city officials said it would not.
As late as Wednesday morning, water and waste director Diane Sacher said various methods suggested by private contractors were able to thaw frozen pipes on private property but were unsuccessful in thawing waterlines 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 Kirkpatricks' home, the waterline 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 Kirkpatricks' waterline from inside their home after removing the water meter.
The hose hit some ice halfway across the front lawn, he said, adding that was when they began feeding in lukewarm water using a high-pressure washer.
Horbatiuk said as the ice melted, he worked the hose along the waterline up to the Kirkpatricks' sidewalk, underneath the street to the opposite boulevard, and to the water main.
"It was all ice from halfway 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 that are 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 to ask them to sit down and talk," Horbatiuk said.