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Storm blows out Clarksville sewage line, waste escape

South Boston News
The sewage geyser on Commerce Street
SoVaNow.com / May 21, 2014


For one resident on Commerce Street in Clarksville, the heavy rainfall Thursday wasn’t just annoying; it created a health hazard after sewage water backed up into his home.

Acting on the advice of a town utility worker, the resident, who asked not to be identified, tried to counter the effects of the rainfall by uncapping the home’s overflow pipe. The act released a geyser of sewage and stormwater run-off into the yard and nearby Buggs Island Lake.

A nearby resident who asked not to have her name published said the sewage water rushed from the overflow pipe for at least three hours, leaving a trail of toilet paper and other debris from the pipe to the lake.

Town employees spent the next day cleaning the yard, and spreading lime and mulch over the affected area.

The rain that pummeled the region late afternoon Thursday dropped at least 5 inches of water in four hours’ time. The excessive water flow overwhelmed the town’s sewer system, which is equipped to process more than a million gallons of sewage water, said Operations Manager Richard Elliott.

Since the house on Commerce Street is at the end of the sewer line, once the plant reached its capacity, the rainwater and sewage backed up into the pipes.

Elliott said the town has already hired engineering firm Dewberry & Davis to review the sewer system to prevent future reoccurrences.

“You have to understand, this was not your typical rainfall, it was similar to a hurricane situation,” said Clarksville Town Manager Jeff Jones, “But we still need to make certain we are doing everything so it doesn’t happen again.”

Some of what Dewberry & Davis engineers will look for are cracked clay sewer pipes, broken or sunken manholes or other problems that allow excess water into the line.

The good news, according to Elliott, is that the new pump station at the intersection of College Street and Virginia Avenue worked very well and prevented Blue Creek near the Clarksville Crossing Shopping Center from overflowing its banks and flooding nearby properties. But that news is of no comfort to the homeowner on Commerce Street who is cleaning sludge from his floors, showers and bathtubs.

When asked whether the town planned to test the lake near Commerce Street for evidence of e coli or other bacteria, Town Manager Jones said it is being discussed, but no decision had been made.

“The problem we have is that because of the rain, debris is still being pushed into the lake and coves, which makes it difficult to get an accurate water quality reading,” he said.

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Comments

This happened at my house. Generally the town was very responsive and assisted in cleaning up the mess. On Sunday I asked Mr Jones, Clarksville town manager to test the water in my cove, he said he would get back to me. Today (Wednesday) he did, and said no test would be performed because it would be inconclusive and that e-coli would be present in the lake in any event. I asked for them to sample at the public water intake point upstream from the spill and in my cove, and the answer would be in any variance, he refused. I have asked the DEQ and Virginia Health Commissioner to intervene. We have the right to know if fecal contamination is present in the lake and is it safe to swim during the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend. Mr Jones has gone from total cooperation to acting like the mayor in the Jaws movie on the 4th of July. If the town runs thousands of gallons of sewage into the Lake we have a right to know if it's safe to go in the water.

Comments

I am happy to report that the Virginia Department of Health has agreed to take water samples at the site of the sewage spill next week. Unfortunately I am told that it can't be done before the holiday weekend because of the time required to grow out any bacteria in the lab that may be present. This action, until after the holiday, is because of the delay by Clarksville town manger, and ultimate refusal in responding to my request last Sunday (May 18, 2014) for testing of the Lake water downstream of the spill. Swim at your own risk this weekend. If you get sick call Jeff Jones!


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