Crews work around clock to chip away sewer ice

GREEN BAY, Wisc. (CNN/WLUK) — The cold and ice continue to make life rough for people all around Green Bay.

The conditions are putting extra demands on those who work to keep the Green Bay metro area running.

Four crews work around the clock, chipping away ice to keep equipment running at Green Bay’s Sewerage Treatment Plant.

“The staff has to stay on top of it to keep it from freezing,” said Bruce Bartel, the new water treatment manager.

More than 220,000 customers depend on the new water plant.

“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen in my 29 years as far as freezing, and I’ve seen ice in places that I’ve never seen it before,” said Bartel.

Bartel says the worst-case scenario is the plant would shut down and sewer systems could back up into people’s homes.

“But I don’t see that happening,” he said.

The deep freeze is also causing more problems for the city’s water utility.

“This cold weather is really hard on people,” said Green Bay Utility General Manager Nancy Quirk.

Quirk says the Utility has asked more than 1,300 households to let water run at a trickle to prevent frozen pipes.

Still, pipes continue to freeze, and some take longer to thaw. Right now, more than 50 homes must get their water from a neighbor through a hose, and there are now issues with hoses.

“We’ve had a number of people call in when the hoses aren’t running,” said Quirk. “I mean, people have been running their faucets full, and they’re still freezing.”

“Until Mother Nature helps us, it’s going to be a slow go,” said Tony Feitzer, Green Bay Public Works superintendent.

Feitzer says last week’s little teaser of spring caused more grief in the long-run.

“Two days of thawing with that one day of rain and the thunderstorm, led to everything but breaking up that was snow packed on the street, and now it’s rock-hard and back to ice,” said Feitzer.

Feitzer adds that salt has become mostly ineffective, so crews must to resort to other methods.

“It has an effective rate to about 15 degrees pavement temperature,” said Feitzer. “And with these extreme colds that we’ve had, our pavement’s far colder than that right now. So the colder it gets, the longer it takes to melt the ice and snow.”

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