ST. ANN, Mo. – Missouri American Water crews were making emergency main break repairs Monday morning at Breckenridge Avenue in St. Ann. Winter is always their hardest time of year.
Brian Eisenloeffel, the senior director of operations at Missouri American Water, described the process to restore these water mains.
“Our troubleshooters, which are our first responders, are going to get out to the area and assess the situation. Make sure it’s safe. Make sure it’s secure,” he said. “Get the water valve down and then start the process to get our crews mobilized to come out and make the repair.”
Response times vary depending on the time of year and crews available.
“If another break comes in right now I can’t pull these guys off and get them there right away,” Eisenloeffel said. “There’s a minimum amount of time that the other utilities have to respond. So even though our troubleshooters (have) been there, things are happening behind the scenes to kind of get that process going.”
Winter is always the busiest time of the year.
“It’s cold water coming off the rivers that we’re treating and then putting in old cast iron mains all over the county. That cold temperature makes the pipes brittle. There’s expansion and contraction that goes on with changes of the season in the soils. And all that stress on the pipe is really what causes these breaks,” he said.
This year has been a relatively normal winter for them so far and not bad compared to some of the busier periods over the last couple of years.
“We’ve actually repaired as many as a thousand breaks in one month. Typically we’ll repair about three-thousand main breaks throughout the county over the course of a year,” said Eisenloeffel.
And an important reminder to consider employees working hard to get the water back on.
“They’re out here working in busy traffic. As a truck rolls by. Please be cautious and give them space. Make sure that they’re safe and that they can go home to their families at the end of the day,” he said.
Missouri American Water designs their system to impact the fewest number of people possible, but each house can’t have its own valve, so that’s why you’ll see a block at a time without water when these water main breaks occur.