The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District has decided to waive its normal $2,400 cap for damage reimbursements and will completely pay for flood damage sustained June 25 by 70 specific homes in north St. Louis.
Why waive the cap? Because the District has determined it is at fault.
Here's what happened:
- MSD has a series of pumping stations along the Mississippi River that help keep storm and river water where they're supposed to be.
- When the river is above flood stage, as it is now, the biggest of those pumping stations - Baden - is manned 24/7.
- About 11:30pm Saturday, the power went out at the Baden pumping station, plus four others and a sewer treatment plant. A back-up feed also failed. A torrential downpour hit the area around the same time, and water began to back up behind inoperable gates.
- MSD crews immediately manually opened the gates at the Baden pumping station, then traveled as fast as possible to get the gates at other pumping stations opened. The storm made travel difficult.
- Crews made it to the Harlem pumping station - the one nearest to the area of the Penrose neighborhood that was impacted - within 70 minutes. By that time, water had completely filled the basements of many homes along Dryden Ct., Dryden Ln., and sections of Newstead.
"Because there was now three to four to five inches of rain in a small area all at once piling up behind that gate, there was just nowhere for the water to go," MSD executive director Jeff Theerman said.
In addition to paying for the damage residents suffered, MSD will also reimburse the Missouri Department of Transportation for the pavement work required to repair a stretch of Interstate 70 damaged by the floodwaters.
"Thanks again to MSD for being honest about their approach to this, for recognizing a problem that was caused by failures within their system, and making good on their promise that they would do what they can to help the residents of the area," said Mayor Francis Slay.
Theerman says the agency continues to investigate the cause of the power outages. He says unless MSD finds other problems, the $2,400 cap on damages will apply to all other flash flooding victims throughout the city. That includes homes on Essex Pl., also in north St. Louis, that were also condemned and had to be evacuated.
Ald. Antonio French, who represents both areas, says he'll continue to push for 100% reimbursement for those residents as well.