Background and History of Water Services to Residences in the City of Ketchikan
During the coldest months of January/ February, incoming water temperatures can fall below 33 oF. Although everyone recognizes that an exposed service beneath a viaduct at tidewater or hung under a wooden street trestle is at risk, there is another situation that catches out new homeowners that may be unfamiliar with our weather patterns.
As the water gets colder in January, it will easily freeze, particularly once the ground becomes solidly frozen all around their copper tubing. The ground can freeze quite deeply in a cold winter when the temperatures get down to 0 oF or below and there is little or no snow cover to provide additional insulation. Although 4-feet is generally considered sufficient depth of soil cover to prevent freezing, in the Bear Valley area, one winter the ground was found frozen to a depth to about 5-feet during site development for the present Recreation Center.
Ketchikan’s existing residential water service infrastructure does vary significantly throughout the community and certainly doesn’t meet the ideal situation where every street in Ketchikan has a water main installed with a water service run to the property line of each Lot with a valve box installed in the sidewalk at the adjoining private property boundary line that acts as a curb stop.
Of our approximately 3,250 residential water services, approximately 25% or only about 800 now have these curb stops. They were installed by KPU and Public Works as a series of joint-venture construction projects in existing residential areas beginning in 1991 that upgraded certain Ketchikan streets including completely reconstructing the underground utilities.
For all of Ketchikan’s other residential streets that were constructed before 1991 and haven’t been upgraded since then, the remaining original water service conditions are entirely different. In almost every case, there isn’t a readily accessible valve box installed at the property line in the sidewalk, just a single connection to the water main in the street. Some existing Lots don’t even have a water main installed in the dedicated right-of-way that is directly adjacent to their property line. Instead, they are served by long lengths of copper tubing extending from the nearest water main.
For those property owners whose older existing residential water service line was installed before Ordinance 97-1377 went into effect on October 10, 1997, the Ketchikan Municipal Code KMC 11.04.150(k)(2)(C) establishes the demarcation point of their maintenance responsibilities to include all the work necessary in the street up to the point of connection to KPU’s water main. Recognizing the inequity this has placed on every residential property owner whose water service was constructed before October 10, 1997 and was not upgraded at a later date, since 1997 KPU has offered grants-in-aid to individual property owners to upgrade their residential service to KPU Standards.
Upon completion of the construction, inspection and approval by KPU, and submission of the itemized work invoices to KPU, up to $4,000 is offered for the work in the street and up to $500 for the work on private property. In addition, as long as this service is then maintained properly and not allowed to freeze, KPU accepts the responsibility for future maintenance repairs within the dedicated right-of-way portion of the street as long as they are not caused by negligence on the part of the property owner.
All that a property owner has to do to arrange for upgrading their residential water service, is to select a licensed plumber or contractor who is familiar with KPU’s Standard Details for residential services, and authorize this construction work. The contractor procures the City permits to excavate in the right-of-way. A new service from the KPU water main corporation valve is installed to the property line, a curb stop and valve box with important electrical isolation is installed there, which then continues to the residence’s foundation where a connection is made to the residence’s internal water service. The required Uniform Plumbing Code separations are maintained between the new water service and existing wastewater service which is generally already present in this same trench. KPU will provide the daily construction inspection of the water service while it is being constructed and there are no fees or charges for our services.