With nearly 7,000 vacant buildings in St. Louis, the $1 million the city spends annually on demolitions does little more than chip away at decades of white flight and neglect.
It can afford to knock down about 200 or so buildings each year in a long, slow effort to pare its housing stock more befitting a city of 320,000 people, rather than the 850,000 of 65 years ago. A bond issue that included more money for demolitions failed in August, and the recession erased years of progress.
“Prior to (the recession) we had actually seen it going down, and we were making some headway on it,” St. Louis Building Commissioner Frank Oswald said in an interview.
But in coming years, St. Louis may be able to count on some help from a source that sees other benefits to removing some of the urban asphalt and rooftops that once served a much larger, denser city.
The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District wants to spend $13.5 million of its own money to tear down vacant properties. Grassy lots would let stormwater slowly percolate into the ground instead of rushing into the combined sewer system that serves much of St. Louis.
While it could take several years to spend down the money, even the longest spending scenario would amount to a near doubling of St. Louis’ demolition budget. And areas where MSD sees the most benefit in terms of runoff and watersheds also are the areas – primarily in north St. Louis – where the city’s vacant properties are concentrated.
The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District has unveiled a new plan to clear blight and create green space in the city.
MSD announced it will complete a $100 million rainscaping project. Under the plan, MSD would spend $13.5 million to demolish vacant buildings across the city.
According to a spokesperson for Mayor Francis Slay, St. Louis currently spends only $1 million annually on the demolition of vacant city buildings.
MSD spokesperson Lance LeComb said grassy lots and rainscape gardens would replace the vacant buildings. He said the project could help MSD reduce rainfall run-off.
“The whole idea is to keep that water back from the sewer system,” LeComb said.
Sean Hadley of MSD joins us on FOX 2 News in the Morning to talk about FOG, (fats, oil and grease clogging your pipes.)
FOG is bad for your pipes and MSD pipes. At your home, FOG should be disposed in the trash. It should never be poured down the drain or garbage disposal. When a blockage occurs, wastewater either backs up into basements or overflows into streams.
You might think of your garbage disposal as the final food processor. It’s where the remainder of the meal goes for many. But MSD wants to lift the fog about oils and grease and what you can and cannot put down the drain.
It’s clear skies on a Friday morning, but MSD crews are sending their remote controlled robot into a Webster Groves neighborhood looking for fog.
“Fog is: fats, oils and greases,” said MSD Spokesperson Sean Hadley. “Like your cooking oils, your salad dressings. A lot of people don’t realize that salad dressing does contain vegetable oil which is something that does harm to a sewer system.
That list of no-no’s that shouldn’t go-go down your drain includes things like gravy, mayonnaise, syrup, batter and even cheese.
“Grease when in a sewer system can act like glue if you will. It can stop up the sewer system either by itself or with debris cause blockages in the pipe. When we have those blockages the result is that water either backs up into basements or our rivers and streams.” said MSD Program Manager Jay Hoskins.
Roads are plowed after 4″ to 8″ of snow over the weekend. That pushed aside into huge piles along roads, driveways, and parking lots. Under some of those piles are sewer drains that crews have been working frantically to clear ahead of a quick warm-up and shot at rain Tuesday.
MSD in Missouri and IDOT in Illinois are both working to clear those drains. They are concerned that piles of snow could block run-off leading to large puddles and localized street flooding.
IDOT crews have been out the past two days making multiple passes over storm drains to make sure they are clear of snow and debris. In Missouri, MSD has been surgically checking known trouble spots to make sure water doesn’t back up on to roads and more importantly into basements.
With more than 160,000 sewer intakes in St. Louis County and City and thousands more in Illinois, there is no way crews can get to all of them. That is why both MSD and IDOT are asking for the public’s help to clear the drains.