MOUNT VERNON — Joseph and Trinka Kitchen like to spend time at the beach with their family and friends when they stay at their cabin in Apple Valley. They had no idea their love of water would leave them soaking wet in the middle of January.
On Jan. 17, the Kitchens received a phone call from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, letting them know water was pouring out of their house.
“A neighbor called the sheriff and let them know water was coming out of the house,” Trinka Kitchen said from her Columbus home. “The sheriff’s deputy said the temperature reading in his vehicle was negative 23; not with windchill, that was the temperature. It was bitter cold then.”
Kitchen said the hot water heater is always turned off during the winter and heat is left on in the home, so she was surprised to find a pipe froze at the kitchen sink.
“Pipes burst and actually flooded the place,” she said. “The kitchen sink is actually on an interior wall, but I guess that just goes to how cold it was.”
Although Kitchen has yet to speak directly with the Knox County Water Department, she did say the water is now turned off at the street.
With the water shut off and the plumbing fixed, Kitchen has hired a company to remove all the water and dry out their vacation home, which they have owned with John and Wendy Blosser since 2001.
Although the homeowners have never asked to have the water turned off for the winter, she said this experience will definitely change their standard winterizing procedure next year.
Pam Muralt, administrator of billing and customer service of the Mount Vernon Water and Wastewater Department, said vacant vacation houses or homes for sale are a big concern for her department, as large amounts of water can accumulate before a leak or broken pipe is noticed.
“If you are not going to be [in the home] and it’s winter, call us and we’ll shut the water off,” Muralt said.
Once the water has been turned off, Muralt suggests turning on spigots throughout the home to drain the lines to avoid any frozen pipes.
Homeowners in the city of Mount Vernon can ask for a credit on their bill if they have a leak or break. According to Muralt, the credit is based on the location of the break.
“If it is outside, between the meter and the house, we can credit half of the water and all of the wastewater over the average bill as credit,” Muralt said. “If the leak is in the house and the water ends up in the basement or soaks through the floors or walls, we will give a credit for the wastewater since the water doesn’t go down the sanitary sewer.”
Muralt said residents can fill out a work order to apply for a credit; she will then follow up with an on-site inspection. Her adjustments are reviewed by the Water and Wastewater Commission, the governing body over the department, where the final decision on the adjustment is made.
She also said a freeze credit is available to customers who leave water running when the temperature takes a nose dive.
“You should allow a small stream of water to run in really, really cold weather. If your bill is higher than normal because of this, write to us and you could get a credit for the water and waste water,” Muralt said.
The best action, Muralt said, against having to apply for any credits is good home maintenance practices. She suggests using heat tape on pipes, keeping cupboard doors open to let warm air circulate and keeping a watchful eye out for faucets that drip or toilets that tend to continuously run.
The Knox County Water Department was closed Wednesday due to weather conditions. A message left inquiring about the county’s billing practices was unreturned at press time.