Detroit official on frigid temps and broken water mains: 'We're in the thick of it'

The bitter cold temperatures are wreaking havoc on Detroit's water and sewage system with dozens of water main breaks over the past few weeks. Not only are those breaks messy, but they're dangerous too.

As temperatures remain dangerously low, Detroiters continue to navigate icy sidewalks and streets because of water main breaks.

"That is a problem - to actually see it on the block where my mom lives, and her house is right next to it," said resident Taylor Brown.

Brown checked on her mom after hearing about a water main break near her home on Rutherford near Greenfield on Detroit's west side.

"In front of her house there is like a big, solid patch of ice that won’t break up as easily as a normal ice on the sidewalk or something," Brown said. "So when I come grab her, I pull all the way up onto the actual curb to get her. Because I fear for her falling and breaking something."

Samuel Smalley from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department said on Friday they had at least 75 active water main breaks.

"We are in the thick of it right now for the water main breaks - we are getting anywhere from six to eight, 10, 15 breaks a day," said Smalley.

Smalley says this month they've dealt with more than 200 water main breaks which is on par with other years. The chief operating officers says they are in charge of 2,700 miles of water main across the city.

"It’s a byproduct of we have very old infrastructure," he said. "We are getting our water from the Detroit River and once it hits 36 degrees, the mains start breaking more frequently."

Smalley says they are working on long-term fixes — like replacing the older mains.

"We are looking forward to the infrastructure money that has passed through Washington DC," he said. "There are affordability concerns in our community there’s certainly a need for a significant need for infrastructure investment."

Meanwhile Brown has a message for the crews working day and night on the repairs.

"I know it’s cold to be trying to do this job, but I greatly appreciate it," she said.

Detroiters can report a water main break: Call: (313) 267-8000 or online through the Improve Detroit app.