Five water main breaks near Manchester Road and Manchester Meadows that occurred between October and Jan. 25 have the full attention of area water and transportation experts. Four of the breaks happened last month: Jan. 4, Jan. 6, Jan. 14 and Jan. 18.
"It's very unusual to have this many breaks in one section of pipe," said Ann Dettmer, external affairs manager, Missouri American Water.
"We've never seen anything quite like this."
The 12-inch diameter pipe in that portion of the Manchester area was installed in 1940, so it is more than 70 years old, she said.
In response, Dettmer said Missouri American Water and Missouri Department of Transportation teams recently worked on a plan to replace the waterline along Manchester—more than likely about 3,300 feet of pipe from Weidman to Mason.
"Because Manchester is such a busy road, and we have several businesses in the area, we have to coordinate our plans with MoDOT, the businesses, the city and other utilities in the area. We hope to start the project later this spring," said Dettmer.
Last year, Missouri American Water invested about $60 million in proactively replacing aging water mains.
The utility company maintains 4,200 miles of water mains in St. Louis County, all of which are 20 to 100 years old. Dettmer said the footage of pipes maintained in the area would stretch from St. Louis to London. How long a pipe will last depends of a variety of factors, including the material from which it was made, where it was placed and how it was laid. Dettmer said over the last 10 to 12 years, they strategically set priorities to make replacements based on the history and consequences of main breaks.
"We estimate we will complete about more than 70 projects in St. Louis County this year," she said.
She confirmed the Manchester area embodying the series of water main breaks was not even on "the list" before this month—but the location's issues got on the list quickly and shot ahead of the rest in the last week or so.
"This one (Manchester area) is a top priority, so we can reduce traffic and business disruption in the area."
Dettmer said MoDOT managers want to complete a traffic study in the Manchester area before deciding the timing of fixing the pipes. Such a study would help map out the scope of work, mechanics of replacements and a schedule.