Aging water main infrastructure will likely up utility bills - KMSP-TV

Aging water main infrastructure will likely up utility bills

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Many Minnesota cities are working to tackle the problem of aging pipes -- especially as mains keep breaking in the cold, but officials say the reality of an aging infrastructure means water bills must go up.

On Tuesday, two water mains broke in Coon Rapids. Though the water service was restored in just a few hours, many residents are wondering if the persistent cold will strain another soon.

"It was bubbling out of the street, but the real geyser was actually come out of our driveway," recalled Ben Hiltner.

Hiltner told FOX 9 News water began gushing out at the edge of his driveway on the corner of Partridge Street and 122nd Avenue.

Coon Rapids Public Works said the ground in the area shifted and broke a valve on the main, and they're learning that the acidic clay soil has been eroding steel bolts on several water mains. Many of those were installed in the 1950s, but the one near Hiltner's home was put in during the 90s.

When even a relatively new water main can wear out, the problem of an aging infrastructure becomes an even bigger issue facing the nation.

Steve Schneider is the general manager of St. Paul Regional Water Services, and in that capacity he covers a city that certainly has some very old infrastructure most people never see -- 1,200 miles of pipes, some dating back to the 1880s.

"They need to be replaced," he said.

In the St. Paul region, that process has already begun -- but Schneider says the cycle still often isn't completed quickly enough.

"We'll replace between 9 and 10 miles of pipe a year, so that puts us on a replacement cycle of 120 years, 130 years," he explained. "That being said, 10 years ago, we were on a replacement cycle of about 350 years."

A recent report by the American Water Works Association found a large portion of the nation's water infrastructure is nearing the end of its lifespan, and it calls for a $1 trillion investment in the next 25 years.

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