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This past winter, after snows and then rain, my water pump chamber, which is in a cinder block housing sitting underground and outdoors began leaking water into it. It caused the jet pump housed inside to get submerged and to fail and needed replacement.

I have dug up the ground surrounding the chamber and the water pipes feeding water to it. Some of these pipes are only 18 inches deep but never froze in the 14 years I've been here. My house is in northwest Connecticut.

I'd like to know how to best now protect these pipes from possibly freezing in the future.

I do not know whether to put gravel in the now open trench and how deep. Or just to put back the dirt, or use sand. And should I cover the trench with 2 inch rigid insulation, and if so, how to attach the pieces before covering with dirt. And how wide should this rigid insulation be? And should I first use some foam pipe insulation around these underground pipes and how do I best connect the lengths. It is 1 inch copper pipe that is buried in the open trench.

And I plan to clean the outside of the pump chamber and cover it with tar and surround that with 3/4 inch gravel. Is that a good idea?

Art
 

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18" is not really deep enough in your area, to prevent freezing. But that does not sounds like your problem. A hole in the ground where there is a normal amount of precipitation, will leak and/or fill up with water. Completely waterproofing this can be hit/miss. If this happens often, consider a different configuration, such as a deep well pump and a holding tank indoors.
 

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Sounds to me like you'll need to offer better insulation to the water pump than just cinder block. Why not try to insulate with the rigid foam and install a light with a 15-20W bulb down there to provide heat during the winter? It's pretty common for above ground pump houses and remember to leave the light on all winter.

18" does sound kind of shallow to me as well, especially considering where you are. For the best results when filling that hole back in, make sure there's lots of sand around the water pipe, 6" top and bottom should do, then cover with dirt/earth. The sand will allow for movement and the earth will provide the thermal protection. Still I don't like the depth of only 18" and if I were you I'd consider burying in deeper if possible. Around here's it's a min depth of at least 24" and we don't usually experience the frozen ground in the winter like you do. I think you're recommended min depth is 4', someone please correct me if I'm wrong.
 

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Wdr

You might be able to install a small sump pump to keep your chamber from flooding. You could use a small pump of any type and add a float switch.
 
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