BELDING — Tami and Ben Bradbury have lived in Belding for 17 years without any water problems — until now.
A Michigan winter that has broken records for cold temperatures and levels of snowfall has created many difficulties for state residents, including a high number of frozen water lines.
The Bradburys are one of 15 households in Belding that have been affected, as frost lines have been pushed deeper than usual into the ground, freezing pipes that are normally insulated by the ground from the cold air.
For nearly two weeks, Tami and Ben have been without running water, and the difficulty of adjusting to life without the convenience of showers or the ability to do laundry is taking its toll.
“My husband and I are keeping up our spirits, but it’s not easy,” Tami said. “It’s overwhelming, and we likely won’t have water for a long time.”
Belding Department of Public Works Director Ernie Thomas inspected the city’s main water line on Howard Street and said unfortunately for the Bradburys, the pipes that are frozen are located on their property and likely won’t thaw completely until April.
“It’s going to be a long seven weeks,” Tami Bradbury said.
Because the pipes are service lines and on private property, the city is prohibited from taking any action to thaw the pipes.
Ben Bradbury had several contractors and plumbers visit the residence to inspect their pipes, but the answer was the same — without spending thousands of dollars to dig up the pipes, they would have to wait weeks until they thaw.
Tami Bradbury said they had tried connecting a garden hose to a neighbor’s home, but that hose eventually froze. As a result, they turned to hauling buckets of water from their neighbors.
But on Tuesday of last week, the Bradbury’s were met with some relief.
They were visited by city employees, who delivered 30 gallons of water at no cost to their door, along with a letter from the city explaining that as long as their pipes are frozen, water will remain available to them.
Expecting to see little to no relief from the city, both Tami and Ben were pleasantly surprised by the unexpected gift.
“That was a big relief, I was so overwhelmed with emotion,” Tami Bradbury said. “It was really nice to see that they are thinking of the community.”
Belding City Manager Meg Mullendore said nearly $10,000 was spent to purchase 6,000 gallons of water for residents from the Absopure Water Company’s Grand Rapids location.
Mullendore made the decision, as expenditures under $10,000 do not require city council approval.
“For us to sit by and do nothing wasn’t an option,” Mullendore said. “Due to the nature of this winter, yes, this was warranted.”
Mullendore said the importance of providing water for residents outweighs the cost.
“Economically it’s not going to break the bank,” she said. “It’s providing them something they don’t have access to right now, and otherwise, we can’t assist.”
Mullendore said residents who have confirmed with the city that their water lines are frozen will be entitled to the water at no cost.
According to Mullendore, the average household uses 15 gallons of water per day. That will allow each household with frozen water lines to collect 105 gallons of water from city hall per week until their lines thaw.
“Initially it was only a limited number of homes in Belding that were affected with frozen pipes,” she said. “But as it started to swell, you get into a motive where you have to do something. Granted we’re limited (financially) and we’re prohibited from helping them directly with their pipes, but we have the human element, that empathy. We asked ourselves, ‘is there something we can do?’
Mullendore said Absopure made their first water delivery within 24 hours of her call to the company.
“I think they recognized the situation and really cut us a deal,” she said. “They provided water for us in less than 24 hours, more than 1,000 gallons.”
For Tami Bradbury, who admitted she was initially frustrated with the city, the relief has been a compromise she is more than willing to accept.
“I love Belding, I raised my son here,” she said. “I just thought the city could help us, and they pulled through.”
“We appreciate it very much so, what the city is offering us,” Ben Bradbury agreed. “They aren’t turning their backs on us. It’s been a very mighty cold winter, and it has taken a toll on a lot of people.”
Mullendore said a check-in process at city hall will monitor who is obtaining water and how much they are receiving on each visit, in order to avoid any abuse of the free water.
“I’m a parent, I have a child, would I be frustrated? Absolutely,” Mullendore said. “Would I necessarily expect that someone would take care of that situation for me? Probably not, but we’re glad we can provide a little help in this situation.”
Those who are experiencing issues with frozen water lines in Belding are encouraged to call city hall at (616) 794-1900.