Cold keeps pipes frozen across the East End

April came with a cruel surprise to many East End homes – frozen water pipes.

By April 2, crews from Toronto Water had thawed the water lines to 1,024 homes across the city, many of which had been frozen since about Valentine’s Day.

But after a record-cold February and a chilly March, the frost line still ran so deep underground on April 2 that another 637 houses were still without their own water. According to Toronto Water, East End homes were hit particularly hard.

“It’s a huge ordeal,” said Shea Warrington, talking about what city workers did to try and thaw the line to her house on Spruce Hill Road, which was frozen from Feb. 28 to April 1.

“They have to bring an excavator, a dump truck, and crazy amounts of people and equipment,” said Warrington, adding that they dug deep enough that the worker who ran a heating tube over the water line was standing some six feet below the ground.

“You couldn’t see him,” she said.

In Warrington’s case, workers could only thaw the city-owned part of her water line, though they did try to thaw her portion also.

Given that their pipes are old and due to be replaced anyway, Warrington said her family opted not to hire a plumber to dig down and thaw the line under their yard.

For two weeks, she said the family stayed in the house without running water.

“My husband was a saint,” she said, adding that he filled 15 five-gallon pails full of water so they could flush toilets and boil hot water for dishes. They had to buy water for drinking and cooking.

Unlike many others with frozen pipes, Warrington said her family chose not to “high-line” water through a hose from their neighbour’s house. With four kids, they worried what they might do to their neighbour’s water pressure.

So after two weeks of bucket brigades and showering at the local gym, the family decamped to Warrington’s mother’s house instead.

Reverend Janet Read-Hockin lives on Osborne Avenue, where five homes had their pipes freeze in mid-February. For more than a month, Read-Hockin high-lined water to two of her neighbours.

“I feel very badly for them,” she said, noting how one of the hoses froze and had to be replaced with a thicker one that made the water undrinkable.

“I find it hard to wrap my head around how, in a city like Toronto, people can be without water for so long.”

Lyne Kyle, a spokesperson with Toronto Water, wrote in an email that each thawing can take three to eight hours given all the digging involved. Crews can only thaw about 20 homes a day, and this year they had 10 times the service calls they normally do.

Now that water lines are finally beginning to thaw naturally, homeowners are turning their attention to their next bill.

Kyle said residents who high-lined water to their neighbours can safely ignore any Revenue Services alerts about extra water usage – Toronto Water will charge those customers according to their previous water use.

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