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Health Department: Health risk 'minimal' following downtown steam pipe rupture

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Updated 3:54 p.m. with comment from Walker

We have an update on that steam pipe rupture that happened in downtown St. Louis Thursday morning.  The City of St. Louis Department of Health says that "while swab samples have indicated small amounts of ground level asbestos, air quality tests have come back clean."

Even with the "high quality" air test results , Pam Walker, the city's health director, has recommended the following precautions for people who reside along Lucas Avenue between 11th and Tucker Boulevard until cleanup is complete:

  • Keep windows closed
  • Stay off balconies in the affected area until cleaned
  • Cooperate with Trigen [the company which operates and maintains the pipes] and its contractors as they complete the cleanup process

Although asbestos was present in the initial plume of steam and debris that spewed four stories in the air, Walker  says the fibers would have fallen to the ground within 20 minutes after the rupture. Asbestos has to be inhaled to cause health problems.

"So it has to be airborne, and it's windy down here today -  it was not real windy yesterday," Walker said. "The air monitors are still in place, and will be in place as they proceed through cleanup. So if this is moving around at all, we will pick it up."

Asbestos fibers can cause lung damage and cancer, which may take decades after exposure to develop.

The cause of the rupture is not yet known. St. Louis Fire Department Captain Dan Sutter said Thursday it may take a couple of weeks to repair the damage. Residents in the area can call Trigen at 314-486-6617 for more information.