Extreme cold brings problems for street departments and water utilities

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO - This week of winter weather is starting to take its toll on St. Louis.  We’ve already seen dangerous wind chills and now a layer of snow for good measure.

Missouri America Water crews were busy Wednesday inspecting and repairing water main problems.   Spokesman Brian Russell said the company has not seen the widespread problems they faced a year ago.

“1,200 water mains broke last January alone so we have a lot of experience now knowing where the mains are old and where they’re likely to break,” he said.   “Hopefully we don’t run into that again.”

Russell said if the temperature of the water coming off the river reaches 35 degrees the system typically sees problems.   He said the water temperature was 36 degrees as of Tuesday.

“That really cold water running through our water mains tends to make the mains constrict and then where they’re weak, they break,” said Russell.

He reminds the public to be careful when they see a crew making repairs.

“We want them to be working safely,” he said.  “Give them plenty of room to operate.”

This is also a difficult time for area street crews.  Bruce McGregor is the public works director for the City of Olivette.  He said the extreme cold reduces the effectiveness of snow plowing efforts.  His department will also be repairing potholes soon.

“Moisture can settle through and go in between the two layers of asphalt and then we know what happens when water becomes ice.  It expands and pushes the asphalt away,” said McGregor.

He was busy monitoring weather conditions Wednesday and said pothole repairs should start by the end of the week.

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