Latest cold-weather headache: repairing broken water mains

Service cut to 150 homes

workers try to keep up

February 01, 2000|By Alice Lukens and Lisa Respers | Alice Lukens and Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Warnings of Sunday's snow and ice storm kept Howard County motorists off the roads and limited traffic problems yesterday, but residents couldn't escape a half-dozen water main breaks, authorities said.

"We only had three accidents from last night [because] everybody stayed off the roads," said Sgt. John Superson, public information officer for the Howard County Police Department. "None of our accidents were serious."

Elaine Middleton, executive director of Associated Utility Contractors in Ellicott City, which represents the water and sewer contractors in the state, said contractors have been busy because of water main breaks caused by the cold.

"The water-related breaks happen every year [at] this time," she said.

Bob Beringer, chief of the Bureau of Utilities in Howard County, said six water main breaks occurred in Howard County over the weekend, including one Friday night in the 6700 block of Montgomery Road in Elkridge. That break will cost the county about $16,500 because of repairs that must be made to the road.

"The average cost for a break is usually about $2,500, but that one cost more because we are going to have to replace part of the road," Beringer said.

At the peak of the water main breaks, 150 homes were without water, Beringer said. The department is also responsible for snow removal and had to take a break from that yesterday because of a water main break in the 6400 block of Allview Drive.

Roofing contractors are busy because of the snow, but they expect to get even busier once it begins to melt.

George Christopolis, an estimator with Columbia Roofing Inc. in Elkridge, said his company has received 14 calls, most because of roof leakage from snow.

But he said his company won't handle calls until it gets its own parking lot plowed. "We got like a 5-acre parking lot out here, and we're trying to get that cleaned up," he said.

Erica Fields, a dispatcher for Maryland Shingle in Elkridge, said the company has gotten more than twice as many calls as usual because of storm-related problems. It normally gets about 20 calls a week, she said; in the past week, it has received about 50.

Paul Sansone, president of 40 West Contractors in Catonsville, said the real leakage has yet to begin. Once the snow melts, he said, he expects the majority of calls to come in.

He said that for safety reasons he can't send crews out to fix roofs until the snow and ice melt. There were no significant power outages in Howard County, according to Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman Jessica Atwood.

Vincent Scardina, a plumber for Mister Plumber & Son in Catonsville, said snow doesn't usually affect plumbing -- including water heaters -- and the recent storms were no exception.

"Besides the fact they're having trouble getting to the jobs, there's not much trouble," he said.

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