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Willmar Municipal Utilities busy with water main breaks

Erica Dischino / Tribune Willmar Municipal Utilities staff and contractors from Crow River Construction work to fix a water main break Tuesday on Seventh Street Southwest in Willmar. The section between U.S. Highway 12 and Becker Avenue was closed while the break was fixed. Water service was expected to be restored later Tuesday afternoon.1 / 3
Erica Dischino / Tribune Dustin Hoffman of Crow River Construction watches a crane lift mud out of the area of a water main break Tuesday on Seventh Street Southwest in Willmar. A section of street between U.S. Highway 12 and Becker Avenue was closed while the break was repaired. 2 / 3
Erica Dischino / Tribune Willmar Municipal Utilities staff along with contractors from Crow River Construction work to fix a water main break Tuesday on Seventh Street Southwest in Willmar. It was the third time the Utilities responded to a break since Monday morning. Water service was expected to be repaired there by late Tuesday afternoon.3 / 3

WILLMAR — Staff from Willmar Municipal Utilities have been kept very busy the last day and a half with a series of water main breaks in downtown.

"We have a lot of water main breaks in the winter," Utilities general manager John Harren said.

Water main breaks are usually caused by frost in the ground putting pressure on the pipes, which can then cause weak portions of the pipe to break.

"Winter is hard on the pipes," Harren said.

The first break, which occurred near the Municipal Utilities building on Seventh Street Southwest and Litchfield Avenue, was discovered about 8 a.m. Monday. The only building impacted by the break was the utilities, and water service will be provided through a temporary line until the impacted main can be repaired.

Because Litchfield Avenue, also known as U.S. Highway 12, is a state highway, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has to be involved with repairs, along with Municipal Utilities and the city of Willmar.

"We are going to have to gather the right people together on how to approach that repair," Harren said.

Not long after utilities staff cleared up the first break Monday, another main failed, this time on Seventh Street Southwest between Highway 12 and Becker Avenue. While it was near the first break, it was a different line, Harren said.

"It was midnight when staff got done repairing that one," Harren said.

Unfortunately about six hours later that same line broke, bringing out staff yet again. They were still working on the repairs Tuesday afternoon.

"There is four feet of frost to get through," Harren said. "It takes time."

The third break cut water service to one business and three houses, though Harren said service would most likely be restored by later Tuesday afternoon.

Harren acknowledged the work of staff and the understanding of customers as the repairs were made.

"Thanks to the public for their patience and staff for keeping the repairs going," Harren said.

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