News Release 395

Sewer leak from St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District sends sewage into a flooded Missouri River

Volume 38-395 (For immediate release)
Contact: Renee Bungart

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, JULY 1, 2010 – The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is investigating the environmental impact of a broken 24-inch forced sewer main located near Howard Bend and Waterworks roads in Maryland Heights. The untreated sewage flowed into an unnamed tributary and into the Missouri River.

Metropolitan Sewer District officials contacted the department this morning to report MSD staff found damage to the 24-inch forced main that resulted in the overflow. At this time, the damage is believed to have been caused by vandalism.  The sewage overflowed 5,000 feet in an unnamed tributary to the Missouri River.  The amount of untreated sewage released from the site is unknown at this time.  

In order to conduct repairs to the line, MSD staff turned off a pump station located at 16905 Crystal Springs Drive, Chesterfield.  Contractors vacuumed up sewage during the time the pump was turned off; however, crews could not keep up with the flow of the waste and an additional 315,000 gallons of untreated sewage was discharged into Bonhomme Creek, which also flows into the Missouri River. 

Both overflows have been stopped and MSD is investigating the vandalism and working on cleaning up the affected areas at this time. The Department of Natural Resources’ staff notified two Missouri American Water drinking water plants in the area, which use the Missouri River as its drinking water source.

Department staff from the St. Louis Regional Office were dispatched to the site to determine the extent of the environmental damage caused by the release and oversee the cleanup. The department requested MSD staff to post signs in the area to notify the public about the situation. It is best for the public to not swim or wade in flooded waters as they can be contaminated with human and animal wastes or can include harmful contaminants.

Clean water regulations require the city to submit a report detailing the release to the department within five days. The department will base future enforcement action on the city’s report and the results of its on-scene investigation.

The department considers discharges of wastewater from sanitary sewer collection systems to be potential threats to public health and the environment. Such discharges have the potential to contaminate lakes and streams, causing serious water quality problems.

Sanitary sewer overflows can be caused by mechanical failure; obstructions in sewer lines; infiltration of rainwater and snow melt into aging systems; or undersized systems that cannot compensate for sudden increases in wastewater.

Communities across Missouri produce millions of gallons of wastewater that must be properly transported and treated before being released to waterways. However, some communities are facing challenges in accomplishing this.

In order to protect public health and the environment, the department requires communities to take appropriate action to eliminate their sanitary sewer overflow issues. To do this, communities should develop a system to track information about such incidents, including the date, time, location and size of the overflow, weather data, who notified them, when they notified the department and the measures taken to respond. The community can then use this data to aid in developing a plan to inspect the collection system, and plan and finance system upgrades.

For more information on sanitary sewer overflows or other water quality issues, contact the Department of Natural Resources’ Water Protection Program at 573-751-1300 or 800-361-4827 or visit the department’s website at

To report an environmental emergency, including sewage overflows, please contact the DNR spill line at 573-634-2436. For more information contact the department at 800-361-4827 or 573-751-3443, or visit the department's Web page at