November 23, 2014


UPDATED: Customers asked to conserve water

This photo shows the area of Avon Lake where the water intake facility is. The intake is under water and there is nothing on the surface to see. There are bands of ice and open water. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

This photo shows the area of Avon Lake where the water intake facility is. The intake is under water and there is nothing on the surface to see. There are bands of ice and open water. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Many Lorain County residents are being asked to conserve water due to frozen intake pipes in Lake Erie that supply the county’s water.

Todd Danielson, chief utilities executive for Avon Lake Municipal Utilities, said several cities may experience a dwindling water supply as the company works to remove a slush-like ice from its pipes, which have blocked some water from entering.

The brutally cold weather, which reached a low of -11 on Tuesday, as well as the lake conditions, led to the slush-like ice, which Danielson referred to as frazil ice.

Frazil is a collection of loose, needle-shaped ice crystals in the water, resembling slush.

“We cannot pump as much as demand would require,” Danielson said.

Avon Lake Municipal Utilities supplies water to Sheffield Lake, Sheffield Village, Avon, North Ridgeville, Medina, Medina County and the Rural Water Authority.

Danielson said those areas could see a decreased supply, depending on how much water they receive from other entities. Some cities have issued emergency alerts to residents to conserve water while the issue is being fixed.

Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said the Rural Lorain County Water Authority is currently taking additional water from Elyria. The higher demand on the system is, so far, not causing any problems for Elyria residents and the city’s facility is meeting the demand.

On Wednesday, EMH Health and Fitness Center in Avon shut off all non-essential water in the fitness center, including showers.

Bottle water was provided to patients at EMH Avon Health Campus for drinking so water can be conserved for other medical needs, said Kristen Davis, hospital spokeswoman.

Danielson said AvonLake residents were asked to avoid taking baths and washing clothing during the water emergency.

Plant employees worked throughout the day Wednesday to decrease the amount of ice in the pipes by using a variety of procedures with air and chemicals designed to break up the ice.

Danielson didn’t have a timetable for when the problem would be fixed, but he said warming temperatures should speed things along.

The National Weather Service in Cleveland predicted temperatures should reach a high in the upper-40s on Saturday.

“We’re working with the other jurisdictions as best we can,” he said. “We’re asking customers to hold off on unnecessary water usage during this time.”

  • Phil Blank

    This isn’t the first winter that we had weather this cold, so why are they having problems now?

    • oldruss

      Not so fast. Tuesday morning was a record low for that date.

      “A temperature record that stood for more than 130 years has fallen at Cleveland-Hopkins.

      “The temperature for Cleveland, as measured at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport, started out just after midnight at 11 degrees F below zero, breaking a record set on January 7, 1884 of 7 degrees below zero.” Marcus Walker,,

      • Pablo Jones

        Record for that date but not an all time low. Did they have issues when temperatures where that low in the past on other days?

    • Alan Pugh

      This is the first time in my 34 years that we’ve gone double digits below zero. I believe some folks have ill-informed memories of past winters. This is very atypical; a historically cold winter despite any false memories to the contrary.

  • Don Harris

    Seems kind of odd, I have seen the Lake frozen solid for months before and this never happened.

  • Fixxer

    I’m more concerned that in less than 24 hours the water supply can become “dangerously low.” And it’s not like people are out washing cars and watering the grass.

    • Pablo Jones

      Water is constantly used throughout the day, drinking, laundry, toilets, baths, showers, etc. millions of gallons a day. That water is constantly being replaced keeping the water towers and underground tanks full. But if the inflow doesn’t keep up with the outflow then the tanks won’t stay full. If the tanks don’t say full the water system will lose pressure which could allow for contamination into the water lines. If that happens the entire system (or areas affected) would have to be purge and under a boil alert until it is flushed out which could take a long time.

      Toledo supplies water for most of the Metro Toledo area. Last year they had a pump fail and if it wasn’t replaced within 24 or 48 hours they said the whole system for Toledo and surrounding cities would potentially be contaminated and could be under a boil alert for months.

      • Fixxer

        So water towers are not necessarily storage devices but are there to provide pressure? Okay, the point remains that we are mere hours from potential catastrophic system wide water starvation. Makes one think! My old farm house has a 1,500 gallon cistern fed from the gutters. I’ll be thinking about how to better prepare for using that indoors instead of just for summertime watering of gardens and washing cars.

        • Joe Smith

          I drilled a water well and have a backup generator for this reason

  • formerlorainresident

    It is not just about temperature. Strong winds mix the supercooled water throughout its entire depth forming small ice crystals, frail ice, and these crystals go to the bottom of the lake, where the water intakes are.

    Ice generally floats, but due to frazil ice’s small size, it does not float and gets carried to the bottom.

    It is a natural phenomena, which results only when several weather conditions meet in a very precise manner. It is not only temperature dependent.

    The crystals accumulate on objects below the surface of the lake, in this case, water intake pipes, and clog them. Ice floating on the surface does not interfere with these intakes, since water lies below, not slush.

    Hope this explanation helps.