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SPU Provides Round-The-Clock Freeze Response

In frigid weather for five consecutive days and nights and over the MLK Holiday weekend, SPU Water Distribution Crews worked around the clock to safely respond to and repair water main breaks across the City. SPU started getting busy late on the morning of January 12, with reports from the public about bursting pipes and large amounts of water in roadways. This included an entrance ramp to Interstate 5 near Lake City Way where a nearby out-of-service pipe was leaking and causing icy conditions for drivers.

At SPU’s 24-hour, seven-days-a-week Operations Response Center (ORC), a small team of six people also worked nonstop and extended shifts to take calls from customers. Residents were reporting no water service in their homes, leaks, and flooding conditions due to frozen and bursting pipes, and requesting help locating their water shut-off valves or turning off their water. On January 16, the busiest day for the ORC, representatives received 370 customer calls – about five times the number of calls received on an average day.

As of January 16, the Water Distribution crews working on the freeze response had repaired 15 water mains breaks since the incident began on Friday with an additional 11 broken water mains throttled and waiting to be fixed. In that same period, ORC staff answered 1,370 customer calls and made hundreds of connections with staff to log incidents and dispatch crews.

The freeze response has been a team effort, and we’d like to thank our City of Seattle partners at the Department of Finance and Administrative Services and Seattle Department of Transportation, which provided indoor parking for our Vactor truck (which can remove large amounts of water) to prevent freezing, Seattle Fire Department, which responded to more than 200 emergency water leaks, and our friends at the Washington State Department of Transportation for their roadway assistance with the Interstate 5 incident.

We also want to thank Utility Operations and Maintenance Division staff for salting the parking lots to help ensure that our water teams could safely enter and exit City facilities with their trucks and heavy equipment. A big “thank you” to the Community Affairs team and Emergency Management and Water LOB spokespeople who pulled off a just-in-time media event on January 10 to help inform the public about how best to keep the water pipes in their homes from freezing and what to do if they burst.

It is times like this that require a high level of service and dedication and demonstrate SPU’s commitment to putting customers at the center of all that we do.