As temperatures dip above and below freezing, water main pipes feel the strain and pressure — literally. Water main breaks in downtown Duluth and Minneapolis that flooded streets began to draw attention to pipes in cities across the state.
So how are we holding up in Brainerd?
“Typically in the winter we will get a handful of breaks,” said Brainerd Public Utilities Water Supervisor Darwin Cole. “But basically we have cast iron (pipes) in Brainerd and it is a pretty long lasting material...and a lot of the water mains laid in Brainerd are bedded in good soil so they have been performing well.”
In Duluth, more than half of the pipes are more than 80 years old and when 3 million gallons rushed into the streets on New Year’s Day, the city spent an estimated $35,000 in repairs on top of the nearly $2.3 million spent each year to fix breaks. Cole said parts of Brainerd do have some older cast iron pipes but nothing of too much concern as of now. Brainerd City Engineer, Jeff Hulsether agreed with Cole.
“In general, the water distribution (in Brainerd) is in pretty good shape,” said Hulsether. “And our pipes aren’t that old either which definitely helps.”
In addition, Hulsether said the pipe-sizes in Duluth and Minneapolis are much larger than in Brainerd, with the city’s largest pipe at 12 inches.
In the most recent Minneapolis water main break on Jan. 3, the 36 inch water pipe was ruptured at the construction site of the $70 million 222 Hennepin apartment-retail development while drilling. It’s instances like that Hulsether said can happen anywhere and anytime, but fortunately in Brainerd, not to the magnitude of the downtown Minneapolis flooding which gushed an estimated 14 million gallons of water into streets.
“During construction projects there is always that possibility of hitting a pipe underground,” said Hulsether. “Under the street you can absolutely strike a water main, sewer main or other utility or gas main and cause problems like those seen in Minneapolis and it can happen anywhere anytime.
“But because of pipe sizes, if something like that were to happen in Brainerd, we wouldn’t see the flooding and damage because we would have lesser volumes of water to deal with.”