Missouri American Water reports on Maplewood work

Missouri American Water is working on many Maplewood streets, laying new water mains and installing new service transfers. The work began in the spring, and some residents are frustrated.

One wrote to the water company, copying 40 South:

I am writing you to express my deep frustrations with MO American Water and your work on 7400 Block of Maple Ave in Maplewood MO. It has been since APRIL when the work started and it is still not completed. All summer long, we had to deal with dust, destroyed road and unfinished work. All these issue had negative health impact on people living on the block, some, who are allergic to dust. Never mind the quality of lives for our kids, who cannot play outside…

Missouri American Water External Affairs Manager Brian Russell responded to a request for an update with a letter to Maplewood residents, including a street-by-street update on the five streets undergoing work.

See the street updates here: Maplewood Project Update Oct 24th 2018

Dear Maplewood Residents:
PHASE I: INSTALL PIPE AND TESTECM Construction, LLC (ECM) has been contracted by Missouri American Water Company (MAWC) to install new water mains in your community. We started in late May and will continue working thru various phases of the project over the next several months.

As of the end of July we had all 6,500’ of pipe installed and tested. Optically it may seem we have been gone for a period, but I would like to explain further. We moved to a different portion of the project. Crossing Big Bend three times to tap/loop the system. Not something to take lightly. I can tell you it was successful, and all the men are safe. First phase complete let’s move to the next.

This phase is extremely important as it is very time consuming and requires the help of the community. It’s ECM’s understanding that the agreements (lead service line transfers) from Missouri American Water Company has been issued to the relevant homeowners. MAWC requires that these forms are signed before we can continue with said lead service transfers. Simply put, the longer it takes to get the signed agreements back, the longer it will take for project completion. ECM and MAWC are working jointly to secure the missing agreements.

In conjunction with the lead service line transfers we also need to transfer the copper lines from the old main to the new main. Yes, we will dig the main back up. Services are not installed during the piping phase because the main has not been tested for bacteria yet. This is a public safety concern and a requirement by Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

To be clear, the main gets installed, then tested and then services transferred. We have approximately 170 services to transfer currently. Our goal is to complete all on transfers on one street, so we can move to the next street and begin restoration on first street. This way at least some residents are returning to normal faster vs everyone be disturbed for the entire duration of the project.

After the service lines have been fully transferred, we can start restoring the neighborhood to its previous condition. This is a stair-stepped process. For example, once we finish connections to the water services on the first street, we will move to the next area for connection, and then begin restoration on the first street. We will repeat this process until the project is complete. We have been working hard and will continue to do so until we’re finished.

We still have a lot of work ahead of us and look forward to completing the improvements to the Community. As of now, I think it will be the end of November 2018 before the project is complete. As I stated earlier, this is a progressive or stair stepped project. I assure you that we will continue to make our best effort to minimize the inconveniences associated with the project and get the neighborhood back to its prior condition as soon as possible.

Lastly and on a less personal note I would like to lay out the financial benefits to the city of Maplewood. Starting in late January 2018 going thru the completion of the current project ECM will have installed approximately 12,200’ of pipe and 300 hundred service transfers at a cost in the millions paid for by MAWC. Ultimately this is an infrastructure upgrade that is good for your community. As we all know ageing infrastructure is a major concern nationwide and in St. Louis. This is also why MSD has been upgrading sewers in the area. My point is that the upgraded infrastructure is not being paid thru higher taxes and or bond issues directly from the residents of Maplewood. I understand it’s a disruption and inconvenient however it’s a need that is being addressed.

Sincerely, Shawn M. McMullen, 

Missouri American Water work on Sarah Avenue in Maplewood

See also: Roadwork all over Maplewood: just one is a city project

7 thoughts on “Missouri American Water reports on Maplewood work

  1. Thank you to ECM employees Mr Brian Russell for providing updated timelines and to Mr. Shawn McMullin for his letter about the MAWC service work on 7400 block of Maple.

    The ongoing problem is that timelines provided by ECM to the City of Maplewood and to residents, throughout the project, have repeatedly proven inaccurate. As I recall we received a door flyer about the work stating it would commence in April and take 5 weeks. It was not clear that only meant a part of the project, leaving the street half-gravel all summer while work on our street paused for 3 months. Further example: On 29 August, my husband received an email response from Mr Brian Schaefer, VP and Director of Operations at ECM, in which he quoted an email he sent to the City of Maplewood: “Our next street to tackle is Maple Ave, which is only a single block of homes to connect to the new main. We plan to start Maple on Tuesday 9/4/18 and be over there for 1.5 weeks making connections to the new main, then pavement restoration will commence for Maple.” Everyone living on 7400 Maple can give a good “snort” at that timeline, right? In Mr. Russell’s revised timeline of 24 Oct, he stated concrete “had been poured” on our street at a point where the concrete work was not even begun (and as of today, 28 Oct, is not finished). Project Management 101: Put your boots on the ground and see before you speak.

    So now it’s been 5 months instead of 5 weeks, and Mr. McMullen tells us the work will be complete at the end of November. Perhaps he should specify November of which year?

    Mr. McMullen says “we will continue to make our best effort to minimize the inconveniences associated with the project”. A street left with dry gravel billowing up clouds of dust is more than an inconvenience, it is a health hazard. ECM was informed by email 27 August that dust-related health problems are occurring: “My wife just had a procedure to repair the surface of one of her eyes, and it turns out the condition is aggravated by irritants, like gravel dust. As you can imagine, we’re getting anxious to get that source fixed.” and again 4 Sept (after the start slipped): “is there anything that can be done to control the dust from the gravel here on Maple? My wife just had a procedure done on her eye because the surface of the eye was damaged. Treatment involves chemically removing the surface layers of the eyeball and wearing a “bandage contact” for several weeks while it heals. If it sounds painful, that’s because it is! It’s evidently caused and worsened by irritation to the eye (such as clouds of gravel dust). We’ve lived here for 29 years and she’s never had this problem before” and “has any air sampling been done for crystalline silica?” The response was “we have not performed open-air sampling as we are not creating contaminated dust inside a building or confined space”

    Crystalline silica is known to be released when limestone gravel is ground into fine dust, as by cars repeatedly driving over it for months. It is known to cause health problems, as ECM was informed by my retired OSH-professional husband on 5 Sept: “The gravel appears to be limestone, which is known to contain probably significant amounts of crystalline silica (see for example https://arlweb.msha.gov/REGS/complian/guides/hazcom/msds/limestonemsds.pdf). Every time a car goes by while it’s dry, a large cloud of dust is generated. Even though it’s outside, the exposure limit for crystalline silica is so low that it’s entirely possible to exceed that limit near the street. And of course that limit is just the occupational, 8 hour limit. Exposure of children or sensitive individuals, over a longer time period, should be even lower. I’ve seen some literature showing high levels from traffic along dirt roads, and unless you’ve got sampling data to show the gravel doesn’t contain any quartz, I wouldn’t be surprised by significant exposure levels here. Although we’ve tried to keep windows closed, we’ve certainly seen much more dust inside our house too this summer, so the exposure doesn’t stop.”

    Eventually ECM sent a water truck to spray the street, but only occasionally (about once a week) instead of the 2-3x per day necessary to adequately control dust, and only this fall after the issue was raised to them then elevated to the state DNR, not all summer while all the residents dealt with the dust from the paused work. There’s a real health issue here to residents, Mr. Shawn McMullin, and you were informed of it 6 weeks ago – you are copied on that email – HOW DARE YOU MINIMIZE THIS BY REFERRING TO IT AS “INCONVENIENCES ASSOCIATED WITH THE PROJECT” and HOW DARE YOU CLAIM “we will continue to make our best effort to minimize the inconveniences associated with the project” when you did squat all summer and not nearly enough after the exposure problem was spelled out and it was made clear to you 2 months ago, 27 Aug, people on the street are suffering real health consequences? I’m sitting at a window Sunday 28 October watching dust billow up behind every passing car. The exposure problem continues unabated.

    Everyone supports infrastructure improvements and understands that lead in water is Bad. Quite simply, this lack of communication on timelines by ECM then failure to meet the timelines provided is unacceptable. Many of us on this street are employed or have been employed in capacities requiring high levels of coordination and communication – project management, process development, engineering, construction, remodeling, teaching. We would all be out of work if we performed this poorly in our areas of responsibility. Last but not least, if impacted parties raise a valid concern, ADDRESS IT with an effective mitigation plan – don’t prattle about “we will continue to make our best effort to minimize the inconveniences” when you haven’t sufficiently addressed valid health issues (much less inconveniences) to date. Put your water truck where your words are and get on it.

    Glad to hear “all the men are safe” though.

  2. They don’t even list Laclede Station. They just ripped up sections of a street that was completely repaved a couple months ago. Getting in and out of MRH ECC in the mornings has so far been a nightmare all year.

    • Yes, there are now about half dozen large patches between Burgess and just beyond Flora. A different concrete contractor must have been used rather than M&H that did the original repaving. The patches are very white and don’t match the original work – looks awful. They should have checked with M&H first about mixing in the right color but apparently didn’t.

  3. When the water main was replaced on my street, they tore out a significant amount of roots. Now the huge oak in front of my yard has “rapidly declined” and according to Ameren tree guy, won’t be turning green this spring. I will definitely be pursuing MAWC for removal.

  4. Thank you for the excellent photo of Sarah St. It shows what we’ve been dealing with for months except that the left side was gravel till a couple weeks ago. I still say whoever contracted this should be fired.

  5. Yep, I call BS- there was no concrete poured on Maple AVENUE (it is listed as Maple “Street” by MAWC) as of 30 secs ago when I went out and looked. And my car is still pretty dusty; thank you to the neighbor who has been hosing down the gravel so we can breathe. It does look like they will have the street blocked for some time, there are police no parking notices up. Guess that means those of us who live on this street will have to park at Taco Bell? And Mr. McMullen forgot to mention that we will be paying for the work through our increased water bills. But hey, glad all the guys are safe.

    • I also liked how he stated MAWC was paying for it. No, the customers will pay for it because we all know they won’t eat the “Millions” being spent.