Water main breaks still plaguing the frigid St. Louis area

ST. LOUIS – Water company repair crews woke up to a huge challenge Tuesday morning, with more than 100 water mains broken and gushing in St. Louis County. A total of more than 200 have been reported since Friday in the St. Louis metro area.

Cellphone video showed a water main break on a Fenton Street. The frigid spray completely covered a nearby car, making it look like an igloo. The spray also coated another vehicle in ice.

“It’s such an extreme cold and it’s been so cold for so long, that’s what the problem is. We have an aging infrastructure. The cold water flowing through the old steel pipes just causes them to fracture,” said Brian Russell, a spokesman for the Missouri American Water Company.

Laura Ahner, who lives on Berry Road in Glendale, said she and her husband thought an ice storm passed their home after a pipe ruptured. A few of her neighbors said they still have water coming into their homes.

“We’ll see what happens if they decide to go and mess with it, because that’s when they usually end up losing pressure,” Ahner said.

It’s a round-the-clock job in frigid, wet, and miserable conditions.

“(It’s) Rough. You got to stay warm and layer up,” said Brandon Smith, a repairman for Missouri American Water. “Just kind of get used to it after a couple days being out there.”

Missouri American Water on a typical day has as many as 30 crews working, During the holidays that number dropped to as low as ten crews.

“We were a little bit short staffed at first because we do our schedule a month in advance,” Russell said. “Our schedule was set earlier this month, way before we knew it was going to be this cold.”

Russell said they didn't have emergency crews on standby, although they attempted to call in re-enforcements.

“I know it’s frustrating—I empathize and I’m sorry—and we’re working as quickly as we can,” he said.

The water company expects everything to be back to normal by the end of this week or possibly weekend. In the Metro East, Illinois American Water said they were working on 22 breaks Tuesday. In St. Louis City, they had 21 breaks.