Keeping the water flowing
Missouri American Water works diligently over the summer repairing water main breaks and keeping the public informed about the safety of their drinking water
By Charlotte Beard
As the summer heat takes hold, the challenges for Missouri American Water ramp up – especially when it comes to bringing clean drinking water to every business and household in St. Louis County.
“This time of year, people start using more water,” states Brian Russell, External Affairs Manager for Missouri American Water. “People will turn on irrigation systems, they’re filling swimming pools, washing cars – using water in lots of different ways. So, we (must) pump more water and to get water to the far ends of our distribution system, we (must) pump it under higher pressure. Putting it under higher pressure will break mains where they are weak; that pressure will be too much for some of the old mains to handle.”
Many residents may not be aware of the Infrastructure System Replacement Surcharge (ISRS) program that is in place to help prevent breaks. However, according to Missouri American Water sources, due to the costs and aging infrastructure, replacements are ongoing (search for ISRS at https://amwater.com).
“Every customer in St. Louis (County) pays a small fee on their bill every month or every quarter,” states Russell. “That money is reinvested into water main replacement in St. Louis County. We identify water mains that have broken in the past – mains that are very old or that we have been through too many times. We turn off the old main, we put a new main next to it and turn it on. The idea is that if we can get to the ones that are causing the most problems then we will reduce the number of breaks going forward.”
As technology has advanced, it has become common for utility services to join mainstream businesses in providing real-time notifications to its customers, particularly in the case of emergency or service interruptions. With the frequency of water main breaks, which can be detrimental to drinking water, Missouri American Water is urging St. Louis County customers to enroll in their high-speed CODE RED Notification System.
By enrolling in CODE RED, St. Louis County customers can become informed about planned outages, construction in their area and emergency notifications such as precautionary boil advisories.
St. Louis County customers can update their information by logging on to the website’s self-service portal (My Account) at www.amwater.com/my account. There are three steps to enroll online or customers may call 866-430-0820. Customers are given the option of choosing to be notified by phone, phone and text or email.
According to Russell, it is estimated that the utility company has up-to-date contact information on 70 percent of its customers.
“That’s still 30 percent for which we do not have contact information,” stated Russell. “So, if we have an emergency, that’s 30 percent that we can’t (notify) that we have an emergency. We rely on the media, social media or word of mouth to spread that message.”
The goal is to get more people to provide contact information and/or confirm that Missouri American Water has their up-to-date information.
“It’s the difference between us calling (customers) immediately versus possibly several hours passing and they don’t know there’s something going on and maybe they’re drinking water that is dangerous to drink. We don’t want that to happen. We don’t sell their contact information, we don’t give it away, it does not leave Missouri American Water. It is strictly for us to use for emergencies.”
CUTLINE: Submitted photos Missouri American Water employees work to repair a water main break.