Sunday, December 27, 2009

ILLEGAL HOOKUPS: Driving sewage backups, city council learns

COLUMBIA, 12/27/09 (Beat Byte) -- At their meeting last Monday, Columbia City Council members heard more bad news about a city sewer system already plagued with charges of financial mismanagement that purportedly costs City Hall roughly $1.6 million each year. 

"A lot of illegal connections to the sanitary sewer" are largely to blame for thirty years of overflowing city sewer lines that routinely flood residential basements around Columbia, environmental advocate and Columbia Daily Tribune columnist Ken Midkiff (right) told council members.  

Roof drains, storm drains, sump pumps and other "inflow systems" illegally hooked-up to the city sewer -- which is not designed to carry storm water in addition to sewage -- conspire to fill basements with raw sewage during storms, said Midkiff, who spoke on behalf of the Sierra Club about a study the local chapter is conducting.

"Many of the problems that existed in 1976 still exist today," Midkiff explained, pointing to "a number of the houses along Sexton Road, particularly 202 Sexton and surrounding properties, that have reported problems with backed-up sewage in the basement" for decades. 

The problem isn't just confined to older homes, Midkiff said.  Based on Sunshine Law document requests to the city's public works department, the group found that sewage backups also plague newer homes and  "some public facilities -- the fairgrounds, for example," Midkiff explained.   

Though the study is ongoing, it has already identified an affected area roughly bounded by the I-70 freeway and the Hinkson Creek, Midkiff said.  "There are two and half pages of residences in this area that have sewage backed up in the basement," he added. 

A similar 2007 study conducted by local civil engineering firm Engineering Surveys and Services found widespread flooding, sewer backup problems, and "substandard storm drainage" between North 6th and North 7th streets in north central Columbia

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