- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Frequent temperatures near or below zero since the start of the year have caused nearly 300 water main breaks in Evansville that have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair, city officials said.

Although the pace of the breaks in underground pipes has slowed with warming temperatures, crews were still dealing with 20 breaks or leaks this week.

The cost of paying employees overtime and hiring outside contractors to fix the breaks and maintain normal water service is still being tabulated and is rising, city utilities director Allen Mounts told the Evansville Courier & Press.

“There’s a direct cost, and through the third week of January - so it’s not an end number - it was a little over $200,000 for overtime, supplies and contractor costs,” Mounts said. “It’s going to be more now.”

The city has had almost 270 water main breaks since Jan. 1, compared with about 95 during the same period last year, WFIE-TV reported. Officials say many of the breaks have occurred in older sections of the city, where some cast iron pipes dating to the late 1800s remain in use.

The water main breaks and frequent flushing required at the water treatment plant because of frigid Ohio River temperatures have caused the city to lose about 250 million gallons of water.

“It’s like throwing away $330,000 worth of inventory,” Mounts said.