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City employees turn out on Sunday afternoon to patch water main break

By Ralph Echtinaw

Three city employees were called into action late Sunday afternoon when a water main on East Prospect broke and flooded the street.

Work began about 90 minutes after this reporter reported the leak to Central Dispatch.

First to arrive was Brian Henderson of the Water Department, who put out signs to close the 100 block of East Prospect and placed an orange cone next to the place where water was bubbling to the surface.

That’s Brian Henderson operating the backhoe, Greg Austin in the middle and Alex Velazco operating the Vactor.

Alex Velazco of the Public Works Department and Greg Austin of the Water Department arrived next and got the city’s Vactor truck and backhoe ready to go. (They didn’t have far to travel, as the leak occurred less than two blocks from the DPW garage.)

After a hole was dug to expose the water main, Velazco found a 10-inch split on the seem of the cast iron pipe, said DPW Superintendent Mark Abbott via email. “This is not uncommon for old cast iron water main pipe.”

Henderson installed a repair clamp over the leak, and the hole was filled in. 

“The main there is old, and we have had other leaks in that area as well,” Abbott said. “I have East Prospect on my list of streets for major reconstruction, which would include replacing the water main, but that will be many years from now with our current backlog of projects.”

This is why the city is currently in the middle of a six or seven year span of raising sewer and water rates by 10 percent a year. The extra money allows St. Louis to issue bonds to fund sewer and water main replacement throughout the city. The fourth 10 percent increase is scheduled to hit St. Louis homeowners and businesses later this year.

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