St. Louis Public Radio News
4:11 pm
Wed June 30, 2010

MSD: Barge may be to blame for sewage leak

St. Louis – Officials at the Metropolitan Sewer District say a barge may have contributed to a sewage spill that started last Thursday.

MSD workers repaired the breach at the South County pumping station Tuesday night. There was never any disruption to service.

The agency won't be able to fully investigate what happened until the Mississippi River goes down, said MSD spokesman Lance LeComb. But barges often dock near the pumping station, which is just yards from the water near Jefferson Barracks. One barge hit a fence two months ago, he said.

"What we theorize was that perhaps one of the structures was damaged, debris came in through the breach in the line or the manhole cover, and in addition that allowed an extreme of volume of water to come in at the same time and the two combined just, they overexerted the pumps and they burnt out," he said.

The station can handle 4.6 million gallons of sewage a day, LeComb said, but MSD does not believe that much flowed into the river. And the location, he said, helped minimize the impact of the leak.

"At that point along the Mississippi River, you have millions of gallons of river water going by, so what comes out of the pump station was almost instantaneously diluted. That helps minimize the health and human safety risk, but certainly one gallon of sewage even is not an ideal situation," he said.

The agency will face penalties from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for not immediately reporting the spill. LeComb said MSD is looking into why that happened.