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KC Water Uses Advanced Technology Instead of Traditional Explosives for Excavation Project

Posted on February 28, 2020

(Kansas City, MO) – KC Water is using advanced technology to improve the sewers in south Kansas City. It’s called Auto-stem and it’s an alternative to traditional blasting.

Auto-stem helps crews fracture underground rock without producing a lot of flying debris, harmful gases, or excessive noise. It is ideal for projects happening in close quarters such as the current project near 85th and Oak Street where KC Water is installing new sewer mains.

“It’s a unique situation and less intrusive for local residents rather than using a hydraulic hammer to break rock. We like to reserve it for areas with a lot of depth or rock that is extremely hard to break,” said Tim Pitman, Field Operations Manager with Burns & McDonnell.

Crews drill holes into the ground, then drop a special Auto-stem cartridge into the holes. When activated, it expands at a very high rate which causes an explosion in the underground rock. This explosion fractures the rock. Once the rock is broken up into pieces, crews can easily excavate and install the new sewer mains.

KC Water contractors have used this technology before. Nearby homes are spared the effects of traditional blasting or constant hammering. Instead, this process produces only a small sound and low vibrations that some neighbors may not even notice.

For more information contact Heather Frierson, KC Water Media Relations Coordinator, at 816-513-0280, cell 816-674-0211.


KC Water maintains and operates water treatment and distribution systems, stormwater management systems, and wastewater collection and treatment systems for residential and business customers in Kansas City and for wholesale customers in the Kansas City area. KC Water is primarily funded by fees charged to customers based on their use or impacts on the three utility systems.

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