ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Robert Cotton was born and raised in north St. Louis County. He's a firm believer that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But after three months of squeaking to Jennings City Hall and to the Metropolitan Sewer District, he turned to 5 on Your Side for help.
Cotton says he has repeatedly watched his city tax dollars patch up a hole in the middle of the street near Lillian and Helen. He believes MSD's sewer line is leaking, and will ultimately grow from pothole to sinkhole, like one in St. Louis that swallowed a truck. He thinks the patch is a waste of public money. We weren't so sure, so we went out to take a look.
When 5 on Your Side saw the hole, it really didn't look like that big of a deal. The hole was small but Cotton feared it would continue to grow. He argued that if its fixed now when the problem is small it will cost a lot less to fix than if you wait until it's a much bigger issue.
MSD told Cotton the depression in the middle of the street was likely caused by lateral lines from abandoned homes. If it's a lateral line issue, then the repairs would be the responsibility of the landowner.
A spokesperson for MSD also said company maps show the sewer runs along the curb, not in the middle of the street, so it is unlikely he said the depression in the middle of the street had anything to do with public sewers. Still, they planned to investigate even before 5 on Your Side's call.
It turns out, Cotton was right, and the MSD maps were wrong. A camera scope revealed a 24" partially collapsed sewer. Repairs are now underway.
As for the incorrect map, a spokesperson sent the following statement: "While not an everyday occurrence, it is not completely uncommon. MSD is today the compilation of 79 separate sewer districts, all built using different materials, standards, logics, and record keeping. As part of widespread management and operational changes 10-years ago, we started a systematic evaluation of our system to address these and other issues. However, it is a large system (4th largest in the United States) and this work must be prioritized against other needs. Thus, it takes time and we are still doing the work. Knowing this, when we receive complaints such as this, we verify information on-site and don't rely strictly on maps to respond to customer concerns."
With the problem being fixed, Cotton said he was satisfied.
"Gee, getting 5 on My Side, it really works. When you have a problem or you're not getting answers from city leaders or utilities, when you call five on your side, they'll actually get something done," he said.
A spokesperson for MSD said the sinkhole problem Cotton feared is not a concern and the entire line is being repaired.