01/28/2014 11:13 EST | Updated 03/30/2014 05:59 EDT

City crews keeping pace with busy season for water main breaks

Toronto's ongoing deep freeze has made for one of the busiest years in recent memory for city crews as water main breaks continue to flood roadways at a record pace.

As temperatures dipped into the - 20s C on Tuesday there was 37 breaks this morning alone, including one near Yonge Street and Soudan Avenue where a pipe dating back to 1912 snapped causing a mini river to spout.

"This year it's been a harsh winter," said Mario Crognale, director of operations with Toronto Water.

Since Jan. 1 crews have responded to 341 water main breaks. That's 100 more than on this date last year.

According to the City of Toronto website, there are approximately 1,400 breaks on average each year.

"The frost that penetrates into the ground...expansion of the soil around or above it...that pressure puts more pressure on the pipe itself, which is brittle, weak, and which results in the break," Crognale said.

The highest break rates are in North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke where water mains are located in mostly clay soil rather then sand, the city website says.

When a break occurs it's up to veteran workers like Donny James to fix it - no matter the temperature.

"Work around the clock if we have to. Water doesn't have a time to break, it breaks when it wants," said James, keeping warm these days with long johns and coveralls.

The city hopes to prevent future breaks with projects like the one at Richmond and Yonge streets where a huge project is underway to replace old water mains with PVC, which is more resistant to corrosion.

With more than 5,000 kilometres of pipes in Toronto, however, replacement will take years to complete.