Levelland’s City Council voted unanimously on Monday to declare the sewer problem on 13th Street an emergency. This vote comes after weeks of overflowing sewage water into a West Levelland neighborhood.
State law provides that the city council can declare a local emergency. Doing so allows council to go outside normal procedure to authorize decisions and contractors.
Joyce Clewis who lives in the affected neighborhood is glad that the council has taken emergency action. She has lived in West Levelland her whole life. With the heavy rains this past year, her neighborhood floods, leaving her trapped in her home.
“I worry every day about the storms,” Clewis explained.
Due to storms this spring and summer, water flooded up to the porch of Clewis’ raised house, preventing her from going to work. The high water levels also left one of her vehicles totaled. On top of the inconvenience, she can tell that sewage is in the water.
“I did smell sewage, I thought it was just a thing that had been there and would go away,” Clewis said, “but it’s been going on for a while.”
The prospect of more rain this summer makes Clewis nervous. She hopes the city works alongside neighbors to stop the flooding.
“I think the city would be better for us if they would come out to the neighborhood and ask questions and see what they can do for us,” Clewis said. “(Also) we can ask better questions and do a whole lot better if they put in drainage systems so that the water won’t go all the way up, so that I’m able to get get to work and other places I need to go.”
Councilman Manuel Mendez Jr. said that he plans to go out and visit neighbors individually to make sure their concerns are being addressed while the city makes repairs.
“I think we need to get out and talk to our community especially in that area, you know it’s a very old part of Levelland and there are probably some sewer issues,” Mendez said.
At Monday’s city council meeting, Levelland City Manager Rick Osburn made the proposal for an emergency declaration. Leading up to the proposal, he explained that a variety of sewer issues have impacted West Levelland.
“We did have a problem with all the rain,” Osburn said,”there were some sewer overflows due to infiltration, we were quickly able to identity one of the main culprits: a lift station near the bottom of the playa lake.”
With dry weather over the last two weeks, the city was able to clean the lift station and elevate it onto a five-foot cement cone to keep the manhole above flood waters.
“Meanwhile, we know we have other problems due to infiltration in the area, we’re looking for those,” Osburn added.
The emergency declaration aims to expedite repairs to outdated sewer lines in the area.
“It could take six months, it can take a while (without an emergency declaration) that’s why they’re calling this emergency measure so they don’t have to come to council every time they need a contractor,” Mendez explained.
Levelland city officials are already on alert for the possibility of more rain this week. Mendez said that he was told by Osburn that the city has plans in place to handle more rain.
Mendez is glad that West Levelland residents like the Clewis family have shared their complaints and stories with him.
“If they hadn’t of come to me, I wouldn’t have known about (the sewage problem). I appreciate that very much,” Mendez said.
Levelland’s sewage problem is being investigated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the investigation is still ongoing.