City sewage causes problems for Oxford-area woman
by Eddie Burkhalter
eburkhalter@annistonstar.com
Jul 05, 2013 | 5190 views |  0 comments | 183 183 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Judy Roberts says that during heavy rains, drainage problems from nearby subdivisions cause flooding on parts of her property on Boozer Drive in Oxford. Photo special to The Star.
Judy Roberts says that during heavy rains, drainage problems from nearby subdivisions cause flooding on parts of her property on Boozer Drive in Oxford. Photo special to The Star.
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OXFORD — Judy Roberts lives on a beautiful, 72-acre patch of land her father bought on Boozer Drive in Oxford the 1950s, but during heavy rains, drainage problems from nearby subdivisions cause flooding on parts of her property.

Those heavy rains also cause raw sewage to seep from three sewer manholes on her property, some of which drains into Choccolocco Creek to the west, Roberts said.

The city’s water department last year attempted to fix the sewage problem, Roberts said, and while the repairs helped, sewage still seeps up onto her land, which lies just outside the city limits.

After Roberts’ father, Jason Ginn, bought the land decades ago, the county received Ginn’s permission in the late 1970s to dig a drainage ditch through the property and into the creek, which runs just behind the property. The purpose was to drain rainwater from the Cheaha Acres subdivision being built at the time, Roberts said.

County workers for several years maintained the ditch by clearing debris and growth, but when Oxford annexed the subdivision in the mid-1990s, the county turned the ditch’s maintenance over to the city, Roberts said.

Attempts to reach Oxford City Street Department supervisor Don Hart Friday for comment were unsuccessful.

Roberts said lack of maintenance from the city has allowed brush and large trees to grow along the approximately 450-yard ditch. In heavy rains, the water pools in the ditch and spreads across her property.

Roberts said she began calling Hart about once a month for nearly a year to try and get the problem resolved and nothing was done until 2010, when city workers were sent to clean the ditch.

“They only cleaned about 100 yards of it,” Roberts said. “They said they’d be back, and that’s been three years ago and they’ve never come back. They never fixed the problem.”

Today, a large pile of brush shows where the city appears to have stopped the cleanup about 350 yards from where the ditch enters Choccolocco Creek.

While the flooding problem is a nuisance, Roberts worries that the sewage is a health hazard.

Roberts said sometime in the 1990s her father allowed the city of Oxford to build a sewage pumping station on the edge of his property. Three raised manhole covers on her property follow a sewer line that runs to the Tull C. Allen Wastewater Treatment Plant in Munford. She said in heavy rains raw sewage combines with rainwater and the mixture seeps from beneath those manhole covers.

Roberts contacted the Alabama Department of Environmental Management March 21, 2012, about the sewage problem and officials investigated; they made recommendations to the city about how to correct the problem.

Wayne Livingston, general manager for Oxford Water Works, said workers in November 2012 installed new sewer lines and moved a pump from one of the 15-foot-deep manholes to a point farther down the line. That work prevents sewage from backing up into those manholes, Livingston said.

Since then, Livingston said, the only complaint he’s received from Roberts is about sunken earth where the new line was installed, and that he’s waiting on dry weather to fix that problem. If she’s had a recurring problem with sewer seepage, he’s not been told about it, Livingston said.

“I had problems with it in January of 2013 and they put in the new line in November 2012,” Roberts said. “It helped a lot, but it didn’t do the trick. It still backs up and there’s still raw sewage.”

Livingston said plans also call for a new sewage pumping station to be built this summer, weather permitting, which will help reduce some of the flow through the sewer pipes on Roberts’ land.

Scott Hughes, spokesman for ADEM, said by phone Friday that the work already done to solve the problem, plus plans to build the new pump station, have satisfied the agency’s concerns.

“At this point in time, we’re comfortable with the work that has been done,” Hughes said. “…But we will certainly remain vigilant and maintain open lines of communication and make sure that they follow through with what they’ve said they’re going to do to address this situation.”

Livingston said Oxford’s growth in the last several decades is putting a strain on the city’s sewer system.

“It’s getting old, and they’re building everywhere and tying people on,” Livingston said. “…We’re working on it. It’s going to be eventually corrected. It’s just that it takes a while to get everything in place.”

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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