Inquirer: Relax, folks, that's not sewage flowing into the 'Hooch

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 2, 2014 

Water bubbles up from a stormwater drain on the banks of the Chattahoochee River on the Alabama side.

SPECIAL TO THE LEDGER-ENQUIRER

Today we travel to the West Bank to see if we've got a problem with the river.

I got an email recently from someone named Chance who is angry about how the city is treating the river. He included some disturbing pictures of some kind of drainage system dumping into the river near 32nd Avenue. This is a couple of hundred yards downstream from the Whitewater put-in, which is visible on the Georgia side from the site.

"What you see is raw sewage on the Phenix City side erode the riverbank and spill right into the river. This is not ok. Especially since we are counting on this river to be the longest urban white water course," Chance wrote. "We have called Phenix City Water Works and all they did was throw a few chlorine tables down. Which is also bad for aquatic life. Then came with a water truck to wash toilet paper and condoms into the river."

Chance included a photo showing some of the detritus he lists above, but I figured none of y'all would want to see that over your shredded wheat.

You're welcome.

One of the pictures, taken after a strong rain, shows water bubbling up around a manhole cover on what appears to be a storm water drain. The water, Chance says, was flowing down into the river and eroding the riverbank along the way. That, in addition to the whole detritus issue, isn't acceptable, Chance says.

If it's storm water, no big deal, because that's pretty much what the river is made of. But if it's sewage?

"They're separate systems," said Roger Conner, director of utilities for Phenix City. "And we don't have any sewer lines that run right up against the river."

So there's no way sewage could spill over into the storm water system?

"The only way it could get in there is if there was a sewer line running adjacent to a storm water line and if it had a break in it, over time it could leak through the soil," Conner said. "But you wouldn't have a rush of sewage."

The discoloration that Chance mistook for sewage was likely just dirt.

"If the water looked brown and dirty, it's probably because storm water drains, between rain events, have a lot of dirt and trash accumulation," Conner said. "They've found dead animals, you name it, down there."

OK, Chance, you can rest assured it's not raw sewage flowing into the river.

That said, the city might want to do something to shore up the riverbank there to stop the erosion caused by the periodic overflows. But that's another topic for another day.

Seen something that needs attention? Contact me at mowen@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8570.

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