Ledger Inquirer

Woman who lives on Weracoba Creek finds herself up another famous creek

These two dewer manholes periodically spill raw sewage into a Columbus woman’s backyard on the banks of Weracoba Creek.
These two dewer manholes periodically spill raw sewage into a Columbus woman’s backyard on the banks of Weracoba Creek. mowen@ledger-enquirer.com

Diane might just be up that certain creek one doesn’t want to be up without a paddle. Literally.

Diane’s house on 19th Avenue is on the banks of Weracoba Creek, which she likes. What she doesn’t like, and what she hasn’t liked since she bought the house in 1994, is that it’s on a sewer line, which has two manholes in her backyard that overflow during heavy rains, spilling sewage and other stuff people flush down their toilets. Because many people read this column over breakfast, I will not go into further detail about what Diane has had to have cleaned up from her yard and the surrounding area.

Two or three times a year, she calls the city, which sends out a crew to clean things up and to replace soil that has been eroded from her yard.

I checked in with the city first, because I have all their cell numbers.

Pat Biegler, director of public works, said if the problem pipes are a combined sewer area, then it would be a city problem, but if it’s not, then it’s a Water Works issue.

She checked her records and called back.

“It’s purely a sanitary sewer issue, so it’s the Water Works’ responsibility,” Biegler said.

So I called my Water Works contact, Vic Burchfield, a senior vice president over there. But he was out, so I’ll have to chase him down this week.

For those unaware of the difference, there are sewers and there are storm drains. Back in the day, someone thought it would be a good idea to combine them.

A combined sewer pipes raw sewage (and I don’t know why they call it raw sewage because I’ve never heard of anyone cooking the stuff) and stormwater runoff in the same system, but separately. That is, until storms overwhelm the system, and then the two are mixed and a sewage spill occurs.

Columbus has eliminated much of those antiquated systems, but apparently some remain. Atlanta, you will remember, had a terrible problem with combined sewer overflows which periodically sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of effluent down the Chattahoochee.

I remember during one such event a merchant on Wynnton Road put a message on the sign in front of his business: “Atlanta sends its best.”

Anyway, Columbus spent millions remedying much of its CSO problems and Atlanta has spent many times more.

So …

Update

… while we’re speaking of combined sewer projects, let’s revisit the section of the Chattahoochee riverbank that collapsed recently, closing down a section of the Riverwalk.

Sage and Seasoned Readers will not be among those who ask what the heck the Riverwalk has to do with combined sewer overflows.

You see, back when Columbus was addressing its combined sewer woes, it became clear that the Water Works had to build an access road along the riverbanks to monitor and maintain its water and sewer system between downtown and the sewage treatment plant off South Lumpkin Road.

So some smart people decided, as long as we’re building an access road along the river, why not pretty it up some and create an amenity out of it. Voila! The Chattahoochee Riverwalk.

All that said, the chunk of riverbank that closed a section of the Riverwalk just upstream from Rotary Park is like lots of problems. It’s got to get worse before it gets better.

I rode over there Sunday to have a look, and it is worse. The part of the asphalt path that had been undermined has collapsed into the hole. It’s possible, even likely, that workers collapsed it with heavy machinery so they could work their way back to solid ground, then start their repairs on a firm foundation.

When I get my Water Works friend on the phone, we’ll get the scoop on the Riverwalk project and on Diane’s problems.

Meanwhile, stay tuned.

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

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