Ledger Inquirer

Who knew that droughts can cause flooding?

Flooding sewer in woman’s yard can be traced to droughts.
Flooding sewer in woman’s yard can be traced to droughts. mowen@ledger-enquirer.com

We learned this week that a drought can lead to flooding. Really.

If you recall, we wrote last week about Diane, whose backyard on 19th Avenue gets flooded with raw sewage periodically when heavy rains hit. Her house has two sewer manholes in the backyard, just a few yards from Weracoba Creek.

We called the Columbus Water Works, but couldn’t get in touch with the person I needed to speak to on Friday. The guy, Senior Vice President Vic Burchfield, returned my call Monday and then explained what’s going on in Diane’s yard.

As it turns out, the Water Works were aware of the problem and had started looking into it. They had run a remote control camera down into the sewer to find out what was causing the sewage backup, and they found what they believe is the problem. Downstream from Diane’s house, near the tennis courts at Weracoba Park, tree roots have grown into the sewer pipe and are partially blocking the flow.

This is where the drought comes in. Burchfield told me that during extended droughts, trees’ roots will seek out moisture, even to the point of sneaking their way into a sewer.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been that thirsty.

“Next we have to determine how best to remove the roots,” Burchfield said.

They have two options. They can spray the roots with what they call “root foam,” which will kill the roots, and they’ll fall apart and wash away. Or they might have to excavate the problem area and physically remove them and possibly replace a section of the sewer line.

Either way, the problem has been identified and a plan is being made to remedy it.

“We want to take care of it as soon as we can,” Burchfield said.

But what if we have another heavy rain before it’s fixed, you ask?

The Water Works has temporarily installed some pumps that will get the sewage past the lockage should heavy rain return before it’s fixed, Burchfield said.


While we had Burchfield on the phone, we asked about the progress on the Riverwalk where it’s closed because of a riverbank washout near Rotary Park.

The good news is that there is a good and perfectly functional detour that cyclists and pedestrians can use.

The bad news is that they’ll have to use it for some time.

The Water Works has stabilized the situation and is conducting a “geotechnical survey” to determine what caused the problem and how to repair it so that it won’t happen again.

So now engineers will have to study the geotechnical survey and the site and determine the best way to put things back together. They Water Works won’t even get the engineering report back until mid-February, then they will move into the design phase, then into the reconstruction.

“It will be closed for a while,” Burchfield said.

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