Frozen pipes add to Toronto’s winter woes

City, private companies working to fix plumbing

The recent frigid weather has not just been hard on people. A record cold February has caused water pipes to freeze and burst across Toronto. The situation has become so severe that Mayor John Tory has called for a “SWAT team” to deal with the 130 calls to 311 every day.

“The SWAT team is a special task force that’s been formed to help manage the influx of calls that we continue to get regarding frozen water service pipes, and how the city might be able to provide support'” said Lou Di Gironimo, general manager of Toronto Water. “This team is a joint initiative between Toronto Water and 311, and started work today,”

The teams are working 12 hours a day all week. Crews visit homes to determine if the pipes are frozen inside or out of the structure. If frozen outside a dwelling, the city takes responsibility. They will then either hook up a highline, a temporary water connection to a neighbor’s house, or they will thaw the pipes. This requires extensive excavation and can take three to eight hours. There are nearly 100 homes waiting to be hooked back up and 300 that need evaluation.

If the frozen pipe is internal, the responsibility falls upon the owner to fix the problem. Plumbing companies are just as occupied as the city.

“The past two weeks have been ridiculous,” said Nicole Keefe of Anta Plumbing. The local company has had two-person crews working from 4 a.m. until late at night to thaw pipes, which often burst again shortly after being repaired. One of the crew fixes the plumbing, and the other comes in to make sure it is still intact after the water has been running for a while.

The temperature is set to rise within the next few weeks, but Torontonians still need to be cautious. Insulating pipes with fiberglass and electric tape, as well as leaving a small amount of water running can prevent and frigid and expensive headache.