Utility Service Partners, Inc.

Sharing industry news, best practices and program highlights from experts in the field.

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Burst Pipes Create Ice Home

Anytime you leave your home on an extended trip, it’s a good rule of thumb to turn off all the utilities – especially the water! This rule is especially important during the winter months when water could potentially freeze and then thaw causing pipes to burst.

That’s just what happened in Detroit, Michigan a few weeks ago when a pipe burst in a vacant 100-year-old home while the owners were away gushing water into the home and eventually out of the windows creating a real-life version of Elsa’s “Frozen” castle.

With a nation facing aging infrastructure problems and water and sewer lines deeply affected by rapid temperature changes, it’s no surprise the rate of failures could be thousands per day around the world. But what exactly causes all of these plumbing problems?

When water pipes freeze and expand, the force doubles from around 400 pounds to 800 pounds, creating new cracks or expanding current cracks. Anytime there is a crack in a pipe – whether on private property or a water main, water is escaping and spilling into the ground around the pipe. If this pipe is under a road, a sinkhole could develop quickly and without warning – such as the sinkhole that swallowed a car in Florida just last week.

As a City Official, educating homeowners not only on the importance of watching for water and sewer line failure, but their responsibilities for the lines as homeowners is an important part of your communication to residents. Additionally, programs such as the National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program can help your city educate homeowners, but also provide an affordable solution for protecting them from the high cost of repairs.

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Water main break creates 30-foot geyser destroying a gas station

Video from KJRH

Shifting temperatures causing water line breaks aren’t just a headache for your local public works department; they can be very dangerous. On January 12, 2015, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a water main break shot water more than 30 feet in the air, destroying the canopy and pumps of a gas station in just minutes. While the aftermath looked like a tornado blew through town, the reality is water caused this destruction. Check out the security camera footage from the gas station below.

Video from KJRH

When lines break, the problem may not be contained to a small area. It can affect many people. A major water line break could stop water for the neighborhood while crews repair the lines – or in the case of Tulsa, close businesses for extended periods of time, causing loss in revenue or destroying property. In extremely cold temperatures, leaking water could freeze, creating ice patches and danger for drivers and those walking on the sidewalk. Water is very powerful and a pressured water line break could also be destructive.

Many factors contribute to water and sewer line failures, including age, extreme temperature, quick changes (from hot to cold) and other environmental elements, such as ground shifting and roots. The winter months continue to be a danger to water and sewer lines for breaks and leaks – especially when the temperatures rapidly change from warm to extreme cold as we’ve seen in many parts of the world. Private lines are just as susceptible to problems as public infrastructure because they face the same age and climate concerns as public pipes; however, when private lines break or leak, the repair is on the homeowner, which could be very costly when lines need to be repaired under sidewalks and streets.

As the snow continues to fall with yo-yo style temperatures, remind your homeowners to be mindful of their water and sewer pipes and protect the lines using a few simple tricks:

  • Run a slow stream of water during the coldest days to prevent frozen pipes.
  • Ensure all pipes on exterior walls or outside are well insulated.
  • Watch your ground for wet spots or a foul smell, which would indicate a leak or break.

Additionally, if they see a water line break, they should report it to the public works department of the town and should not attempt to drive through the water. It only takes a few inches of fast-moving water to move a car and as you saw in the video, powerful water can crush metal.

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Utility Service Partners provides 80 free warranties to Southeast Energy Assistance in Atlanta

Canonsburg, Pennsylvania – Utility Service Partners, Inc. (USP) partnered with the Southeast Energy Assistance Program in Atlanta, Georgia, to offer 40 water line warranties and 40 sewer line warranties for free to qualified local homeowners.

“The City of Atlanta was one of the first major cities in the United States to adopt our warranty program,” said Philip E. Riley, Jr., Chief Executive Officer. “We were thrilled to be able to give back to 80 homeowners with free warranty protection for their water and sewer lines.”

Qualified homeowners had to be enrolled with Southeast Energy Assistance group in Atlanta and have a qualified contractor perform an inspection of their line before acceptance. Once the inspection was complete, USP’s consumer brand, Service Line Warranties of America, enrolled the customer for up to one year of free service for repairs to their water and/or sewer line.

“We are very thankful to Utility Service Partners for their contributions to the homeowners in need in the City of Atlanta,” said Lila Blake, Executive SEA Director. “It’s great to see a company give back to a community where they do business.”

For more information on Southeast Energy Assistance, visit http://southeastenergy.org/.

About Southeast Energy Assistance (SEA) – Southeast Energy Assistance provides direct assistance to improve living and housing conditions of low-income families through conservation programs. SEA offers a water bill payment program among others that are intended to assist people living at the poverty level. Priority is given to the elderly and handicapped and statistically, of those served, 80% are female heads of household, 86% are elderly and 95% are minorities. SEA has a history of service to Atlanta’s low-income community since 1978.

About Utility Service Partners – Founded in 2003, Utility Service Partners, Inc. strives to be the leading provider of solutions to North American municipal and utility clients by delivering quality programs that bring value to both the client and their residents. Operating under the consumer brands Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA) and Service Line Warranties of Canada (SLWC), USP and affiliates are committed to addressing aging infrastructure across the nation through public-private partnerships.

About Service Line Warranties of America Service Line Warranties of America is the brand used by the Utility Service Partners, Inc. family of companies. Headquartered in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, they are one of the nation’s largest and most trusted sources of utility line warranties, serving residential customers since 2003. After a decade in business, SLWA has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. SLWA is proud to partner with National League of Cities to deliver this program. The National League of Cities is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities, and serves as a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.