Niagara Falls, NY - Last winter's brutal cold caused some major issue with frozen water pipes in the city of Niagara Falls. Now a suggestion to try to lessen the chance of a repeat of that problem is raising the temperature for some.
Mike Tulino was one of those 72nd Street residents in Niagara Falls who endured days without water service last February after the pipes leading to their homes froze up. The city worked to thaw them out back then but Tulino and some other residents felt reconstruction of the street in recent years and the depth of the water lines may have been a factor.
Now Tulino is doubly frustrated "We feel like we were just blown off. Like you had your day, we didn't answer none of your questions. Here's your letter, now go away."
That letter from mid-November makes him a new member of the Niagara Falls Water Board Frozen Water Assistance Program, better known as the "drip plan". It's in effect from December 15 through March 31. Homeowners who actually got the letter are being instructed to open one of their taps so that the water stream is about an eighth of an inch or about the width of a pencil lead. But that may be hard to measure and they're being told if they exceed it they're gonna have to pay for it.
Sure enough there's an example dot of the suggested size of the water stream at the bottom of the letter. But as Tulino points out "Everybody's interpretation might be a little different, we got people in their 80's."
Water Board Executive Director Paul Drof says "This is a precautionary step taken by the water board to make sure people have water service." Drof says the drip plan goes back for years and was expanded to more than 240 customers this year because of last year's brutal winter situation. He says they are trying to make an allowance for the extra water used in that stream which could chop about a third or perhaps $30 of the average $100 dollar water bill.
But 2 on Your Side asked "Is it possible though that somebody may still end up with extra charges because they did leave that stream of water open? Drof replied "That is a possibility and that's why we warn them to make sure they monitor that stream and they monitor their water usage."
Tulio points out "The problem's not gonna correct itself. Now if I wanna sell my house someday, how do I explain that yeah, you gotta leave your water running every winter." Drof responded "The program has been a long standing program in the city, especially in areas where we have certain issues."
The Water Board suggests turning on the lowest faucet in the house, which would probably mean in the basement. Anyone with questions or needing assistance should call the Water Board's Meter Shop. The number is 283 - 9770 Ext. 224 and it's also listed in the letter. You can also go to their website at nfwb.org.
The water board admits this is sort of a "band-aid" approach to stopping a repeat of last winter's frozen pipe problem on 72nd Street. They are waiting for the release of an engineering consultant's study ordered by the city. Mayor Paul Dyster was unavailable to discuss that report due to illness.