MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO (KPLR) - Workers fought dangerously-cold weather all night long to stop a 42-inch main from leaking sewage onto Creve Coeur Mill Road. Supervisors tried to keep repairs on-schedule while keeping the crew healthy.
“Temperatures in the teens today. Very cold,” Metropolitan Sewer District spokesman Lance LeComb looked at the men standing over the excavation site outside an MSD pumping station in Maryland Heights. “But, they did dress appropriately. These guys are professionals at what they do.”
Still, formen watched – since midnight -- for signs the cold was getting the best of workers Wednesday morning. A sewer main broke Sunday just south of Creve Coeur Park. LeComb said the workers were tough, but vulnerable – especially if their task called for standing watch over the deep trench.
“You’ve got to keep an eye on them, get them over to a heater if they are going to be still for any amount of time and keep them moving and keep that blood circulated,” he looked at the men spraying the broken sewage main with clean water. “They’re suited up in water-tight gear and rain gear with duct-tape on their boots. But, they’re working hard. They’re generating a lot of sweat. They’re already in a wet environment with the force-main sewage. So, if they`re moving, they’re okay.”
But, slickers and hard hats do not breathe.
“Because, the moment they have that sweat and everything on them and they stop moving,” LeComb explained. “It just freezes in this environment.”
LeComb said the break probably started as a pinprick and ended up with sewage punching through the high-pressure main.
“There’s not a lot of oxygen under there. It’s just sewage. That environment is very corrosive. So these force-main pipes, even though they are ductile steel, it’s a brutal life-span they have.”
This sewer main was at the end of its average life span, about 30 years. That is less than half of a regular water main. MDS issued this strict instruction to worker: Stay warm.
“We want to get this done,” LeComb said. “We want to protect the environment. But, safety is paramount to us. The loss of life is not worth this fix.”
Engineers restarted forty pumping stations shut down during the fix. Crews pumped sewage into a standby basin until the repairs were done. If the repairs were not completed today, crews would have to face the cold weather again tonight.