Rural Water Assists North Dakota Utility After Tank Freezes

Contactor climbing into Hannaford tank to steam frozen intake.

HANNAFORD, N. D. – When ice blocked the intake of the Hannaford water tower, the pumps cycled erratically, pressure spiked in the distribution system, and malfunctions threatened to leave the community without water. Assistance from the North Dakota Rural Water Systems Association helped avoid disaster and restore water service.

“We had some insulation in the tank that slid down,” explained Hannaford City Auditor Ed Everson. “When we had several days of cold temperatures and high wind, the tank started to freeze.”

Unfortunately, Hannaford wasn’t aware of the ice in their tank when the demand pumps started cycling erratically and pressure spiked in the distribution system. The rapid cycling threatened to burn up the pumps and high pressures risked main breaks, all with Hannaford’s usual tank service contractor unavailable for two days.

“We knew we couldn’t use our regular contractor because it would take two days,” Everson said, “We’d be without water for two days,”.

That’s when Everson contacted North Dakota Rural Water for assistance.

“The pumps were cycling on and off faster than they should, and customers were complaining of extremely high pressure,” NDRWSA Circuit Rider Jeremy Sheeley said. “As soon as he described it, I figured it was ice over the intake.”

Flushing Hannford fire hydrant to get warmer water into the system.

The ice over the tank intake confused the system and interrupted the normal filling process.

“The water tower sensors were calling for water, but since the intake was blocked, the demand pumps were pushing straight into the distribution system,” Sheeley explained.

The Circuit Rider advised the community to shut down the demand pumps and call a contractor in the nearby Devil’s Lake. Sheeley and the tank contractor would be able to assist the next day.

The following day, Hannaford Water Works Superintendent Roger Rondestvedt was cycling the pumps manually to maintain appropriate levels of pressure in the system. The contractor climbed into the tower and started cutting through the ice with steam. Once the contractor cut a sizable hole in the ice, Sheeley opened a fire hydrant on the edge of town to get more water moving through the system.

“The water from the well is warmer,” Sheeley explained. “Plus, moving water won’t freeze.”

Moving water through the system helped cut through more ice. By about 4 p.m., the standpipe was thawed, and the tower was back in service. Sheeley advised Hannaford to move water through the tower the next day, and to set the water level as low as they were comfortable with to keep the water cycling.

The quick action helped keep the water flowing and prevented significant damage to the water system.

“We were lucky we didn’t lose our pumps,” Everson said.

“Hannaford has a relatively new distribution system, so the higher pressure didn’t cause any breaks or leaks,” Sheeley added.

Hannaford has been running without any further issues and has plans to repair the tank insulation in the summer.

“Jeremy stayed until the work was done. He put in a pretty full day,” Everson said. “I really appreciate it, we all do.”