(KMOV) -- The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District is beginning a giant project to repair problems with the sewer system.
The project will cost nearly $5 billion and take 23 years to complete. Some of the work will include repairs on giant underground tunnels below Forest Park and the construction of new tunnels.
MSD customers saw their bills go up in July and will see more rate increases to pay for the improvements agreed upon as the result of a federal lawsuit.
Much of the work for “Project Clear,” as it’s being dubbed, will happen out of sight and underground.
Hidden under Forest Park is a four-mile network of underground tunnels that carry both storm water and sanitary sewer water. Because of its age – it was finished in the 1920’s – it is unable to handle all the demands of a 21st century city.
“The main part of the problem that had to be fixed was sewer overflows, discharges of wastewater and storm water going into area waterways when too much rainwater gets into the system, also causing basement backups,” said Lance LeComb with MSD.
Solving the problem is a three step approach, first of which is increase underground capacity.
An expensive part of the project will be building 18 more miles of tunnels, not to handle drainage but for storage.
When there’s a big rain it’ll have the capacity to hold up to 700 million gallons, like a giant water tank. That’ll help solve the overflow problem and solve backup problems into basements.
And then the water is pumped out later to the water treatment plant.
The second step to reduce the amount of water going underground.
“We’re working to disconnect downspouts that drain water from homes,” said LeComb. “Right now about 30,000 homes go directly into the public sewer system. They shouldn’t have been connected that way.”
The third step is to increase green space so the soil can soak up more water.