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Drought, River Temperatures Blamed For Spike In Water Main Breaks

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - If you’ve had a water main break in your neighborhood in the last week or so, you’re not alone. A combination of factors are already making this a tough winter for water repair crews.

Water main breaks in cold weather are not unusual but Missouri American Water Company Spokeswoman Ann Dettmer says there are other reasons we’re seeing about 20 breaks each day, thirty percent more than usual.

One is a quick drop in river water temperatures.

“They’re below 40 degrees and that puts pressure on aging water pipes,” Dettmer said. “And a second issue is the persistent drought that we’ve had. There’s not a lot of moisture in the soil so any movement in the pipes is more likely to cause a break”

Dettmer says those factors are especially tough on a system of 4,200 miles of 20- to 80-year-old pipes. “4,200 miles, if you stretched it end-to-end, would reach from St. Louis to London. So, if you think of a road that long, you’re going to have potholes in it.”

“We’re going to see these numbers continue to be high as the temperature in the river remains cold and the lack of rain also works against us,” she said.

But, Dettmer adds, Missouri American is ready. “During a normal weekday we have 14 maintenance crews working around the clock and 25 construction crews that, when they’re not replacing aging water lines proactively, they’re going in and helping maintenance crews to get things repaired quickly.”

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