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— Sewer line overflows, like the one that occurred in Decatur last week, are fairly common after a large rainfall, according to Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Aaron Sadler.

Heavy rains on Oct. 8 and 9 caused storm water mixed with wastewater to overflow from a sewer-line manhole near the intersection of Spring Avenue and Arkansas Highway 59.

Sadler said there have been a number of sanitary sewer overflows across the state because of the recent heavy rainfall.

“It’s very common when we have a very large rain event,” Sadler said.

City officials reported the overflow to the ADEQ on Oct. 9, but they didn’t report that they had diverted the overflow into a nearby creek, which is a violation of their permit, Sadler said.

City utilities manager James Boston said the overflow was running across Highway 59 into the creek, so he decided to divert it so it wouldn’t run across the highway and cause traffic problems.

The overflow occurred in James Beemer’s yard, and Beemer said he has complained to the city about the problem many times over the years. Beemer also said he’s spoken with several other residents who claim to have told the city about the problems.

“After reporting sewage overflow from the manhole covers on Spring Avenue in Decatur on Oct. 9, 2009 to the city due to the rain from the storm the night before, I come home for work on the Oct. 13 to find this eight-inch sewer line running into the creek. It was at this time I called the news,” Beemer said in an e-mail to the Decatur Herald.

Boston and Mayor Bill Montgomery said they were never contacted by Beemer.

“If people have a problem with the city, they need to call. We could have easily taken care of it,” Montgomery said.

Beemer provided phone records to the Decatur Herald showing he called city hall on Oct. 9.

“The city just ignores it every time I call them,” Beemer said.

Boston said he is implementing a new reporting system with a clip board in both the city offices and the police department to make sure all reports of overflowing manholes get to him or water department manager Rocky Mills.

“If you have a manhole overflow, please call us. We may not even know it’s happening,” Boston said.

Boston said he has been aware of the overflow problem for some time. Last spring, the water department did smoke tests on the sewer lines along Spring Street to find out where the storm water might be leaking in.

The latest overflow helped the city find the source of the leak. City workers used a fiber-optic camera to look into the section of pipe along Highway 59 near the T-N-T Express truck stop.

The camera revealed water was pouring into the 260-foot section of pipe at the joints. Repairs have been scheduled for this week.

“We don’t have any control over the rain, but we do have problems and we’re addressing those problems,” Boston said.

Sadler said the ADEQ willbe meeting with city officials next week. Enforcement action is pending, but it’s too early to tell if the city of Decatur will face any penalties.

When asked if the leak created a danger to the public, Sadler said, “It’s my understanding that they reported there has been no evidence of human contact.”

He explained that it is hard to quantify the damage done by a leak because the wastewater is diluted with storm water.

“Anytime there’s an overflow, there’s a health concern and an environmentalconcern,” Sadler said.

The overflow on Spring Avenue and Arkansas Highway 59 dried up on Wednesday and city employees have cleaned the area and spread lime, Sadler explained.

Beemer said he feels the overflow is a danger to the public. He said hehas seen people picking watercress out of the creek to eat.

“We have these issues with Oklahoma, and now we’re sending city sewage down the creek?” Beemer said.

City officials have five days to submit a report on what happened, what they plan to do to correct it and what they are going to do to make sure overflows are reported in the future.

“We can’t do much when seven inches of rain hits;

you can talk to any city,” Montgomery said.

News, Pages 1 on 10/21/2009

Print Headline: Overflowing sewers cause stink for city

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