Frozen ground, leaking water

Pipe breaks before the frost is gone for the Rakotz family


ST. ANTHONY, Minn. — With over 2 feet of frost left in the ground, Dennis Rakotz, a partner at Rakotz Dairy, had to make phone calls to find someone who could dig through the frozen ground so a busted water pipe could be fixed.

“We tried to do it ourselves but didn’t have something big enough to break the frost,” Rakotz said.

This was not the first time the pipe had to be repaired. In 2013, during the construction of their new barn, the water pipe was punctured while drilling a hole for one of the poles. Rakotz milks about 185 cows in a double-8 parallel parlor near St. Anthony.

“We were able to fix it easily then,” Rakotz said. “We were able to splice the line back together.”

For about 10 years, the splice held with no issues. And then, in March 2023, the pipe sprung a new leak.

“The fitting just wore out and water slowly worked its way through the dirt and frost,” Rakotz said. “It had to be leaking a few days before it started to pool next to the barn. We didn’t think anything of it at first. We didn’t realize it was a leak until the morning and there was water coming into the barn.”

Rakotz had Kotzer Excavating Inc. come with an excavator to dig up the ground so they could reach the pipe. Because it was off-season, many workers were called in from home. Fortunately, there was at least enough daylight to get it fixed and the weather was not unpleasant to work in.

“They had to bust it apart little by little,” Rakotz said. “It took them all day to dig the hole. The crew was out here around 8 in the morning and only left at 4:30 p.m.”

While waiting for the excavation company, Rakotz got to work looking at electrical lines. He had a good idea of where the lines were but did not want to risk it, so he called an electrical company.

“Calling the electric company saved us,” Rakotz said. “We didn’t know exactly where all of our power lines were, and there ended up being four main lines that ran right next to where we had to dig to get to the water line.”

After digging past the electrical lines and through the frost, the crew faced two more challenges before the water line could be reached. The first was digging through sand and mud.

“This is all sand here, so after they busted through all of the frost, they had to keep digging the sand out a couple of different times,” Rakotz said. “It kept collapsing, and they had to essentially start over every time it did.”

Another aid that helped them through once they hit the sand was a hydro-vac. With the machine, the crew could prevent mud or water from flooding back into the hole.

After reaching the depth of the line, the crew worked their way under the barn and around a pole to get to the line. By the end of the day, the hole ended up being about 8 feet around and was dug out under the barn.

“The pipe was on the inside of the pole, and the leak was right behind it,” Rakotz said. 


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