HOUGHTON – Even this winter eventually had to end.
With warming temperatures both above and below ground, local municipalities are telling residents they can shut off their faucets without fear of frozen pipes.
Houghton Department of Public Works Supervisor Mark Zenner announced the city was relaxing its let-run policy at the most recent city council meeting on April 24.
“We’d like to get the folks to shut their water off, to see if we can get back down to normal consumption,” he said.
The average water usage for a day, normally around 1 million gallons, increased by 150,000 to 175,000 gallons at the let-run’s peak, when close to 450 people had streams going, Zenner said.
Hancock’s let-runs ended on Wednesday. About 240 people had gotten approval from the city to go on the list.
That meant 10 million gallons a month of additional water for the city, which City Manager Glenn Anderson said is costing the city $48,000 a month.
“We still don’t know the impact to the city, but we’re going to eat the entire cost,” he said. “The only issue is those 20 or 30 of the 240 who exceeded the 11,000-gallon cap.”
Ontonagon announced an end to its let-runs effective April 25. The city had about 500 people on let-runs, compared to 25 to 35 in a usual winter, said Village Manager Joe Erickson.
“This year, we put probably a couple dozen on a few weeks early,” he said. “Then when things started freezing up where things had never frozen before, and there was no way our crews could keep up, we went to the let- runs.”
Though final numbers haven’t come in yet from the water department, Erickson guessed it had tripled the water consumption.
L’Anse went off let-runs a few weeks ago. This winter, all of the village’s 1,091 customers were running their water, said Village Manager Bob LaFave.
“Typically, we’ll have maybe a handful, but the frost was just so deep this year, and we had quite a few frozen water lines,” he aid. “It’s all we could do to prevent people from freezing.”
Between fixing frozen water lines, labor and increased sewer plant operations, the costs to the village exceeded $390,000, a high amount for a small village, LaFave said.
He turned over those figures to the county emergency manager, who turned them over to the state.
“We’re hopeful the state will be able to help us out with some resources to fill those holes,” he said. “If we’re unable to get any help, we’ll just have to eat it. There’s nothing else we can do. We can’t leave the whole town without water.”