Over the weekend, residents in West Levelland found their streets again flooded with sewer water. While the city said there is an explanation for the flooding, residents are worried this is yet another instance of their neighborhood being overrun with sewage.
John Timmons has lived on Avenue N and 11th Street for almost two decades. He first saw the flooding when he arrived home at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. He called the city to respond to the flooding, and by the afternoon he said city workers told him that the sewer issue was resolved.
“So I didn’t bother to look at it, and I came back out at 7 p.m. and I had a pool [of wastewater] here, it was still coming up the sewer at 7 pm,” Timmons said. He said that it wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that all the water had dried out. The City of Levelland verified that four of their employees worked for fifteen hours– finishing at 1 a.m. Sunday, to get rid of the sewage problem.
While the sewage was vacuumed, Avenue N was still blocked off at 11th Street on Tuesday with a large mound of dirt covering the entire width of the street. The manhole where the sewage leaked from is still covered with dirt, sandbags, and the remains of sewage. The city also treated the area with chlorine pellets which cover the street.
“They tried to treat it, but nobody’s really come through and cleaned it up, this mess will be here for days, I guarantee it.” Timmons said.
Levelland City Manager, Rick Osburn, explained that the main reason it took so long to clean was because the sewer system faced some unexpected hurdles.
“This was a several thousand dollar expense to the citizens of Levelland, potentially, because someone didn’t want to pay a little bit to properly clean products, so they put them in our sewer system,” explained Rick Osburn, City Manager of the City of Levelland. He explained that the line was clogged by industrial rags and mopheads which were disposed of illegally, he expects because someone was avoiding the fees which would come with disposing of them in elsewhere.
Osburn estimates that the total volume of the dumped items would fill a 40 gallon trash can. The rags in the sewer clogged up the city’s cleaning machines, Osburn said. He added that residents continued use of their water systems during the blockage which intensified the water blockage.
“I’m not sure how you flush a mop head into a commode to get it into the sewer system, chances are it would stop up the yard line before it ever made it to the sewer main,” Osburn said. “So our guess is someone illegally pulled the cover off of a manhole and dumped a bunch of stuff in it.”
Osburn said, he didn’t believe this sewer leak was tied to all the sewer leaks in the past at the same location.
When asked if the sewer line on Avenue N is adequate, Osburn replied:
“We haven’t had problems with the line in several months, we’ve had some rainfalls, we’ve kept a close watch on the line and it’s functioned properly,”
“No, I don’t buy [the city’s] explanation at all,” he said.
“This isn’t the first time, this happens on routine now, to where it happens every summer a good three to four times a year,” Timmons said. “This year it hadn’t happened as much because they keep a vacuum truck on the sewer main when it rains, and they’re pumping water out. They say they’ve got it fixed, but they continue to vacuum sewage out as it’s raining to prevent it from overflowing.”
Timmons acknowledged that the city has worked to vacuum up sewage leaks recently, but feels that the city still doesn’t have a long term solution to the sewer line problem.
Timmons has continued living in the area because many of his family members live in surrounding houses and blocks. But given the cycle of mess and cleanup on his street, he may not be able to stand living there much longer.
He has spent well over a year meeting with city leaders and calling the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, asking for changes in the sewer line on his street.
“I’m about ready just to pick up and move out of this place, to move away from here, it’s nasty, it’s getting old,” Timmons said. He said that his family hardly invites people over anymore because they’ve been so frustrated with the smell and the sewage.
“It makes you want to throw up, when you get out here and it blows just the right way, blows up in the yard, blows up in the house,” Timmons explained. He added that even when the sewer water dries up, the smell lingers. EverythingLubbock.com was on scene Tuesday and verified the existence of a lingering odor.
Osburn said this incident is the largest instance of illegal dumping in sewers he’s seen. He’s asking the public to notify officials if they witness illegal dumping again.
“There’s hundreds of manholes all over town, it would be nice if we could put a camera in each one, but we can’t, so we’re relying on our citizens so we can investigate and prosecute,” Osburn said.
He said it’s a possibility that the city may replace the entire sewer line in Timmons’ neighborhood, but city budget constraints will slow down that process.
Osburn admitted, the manholes in Timmons’ neighborhood are old. He added that the city is actively researching how to replace them.
Other neighbors on Avenue N said they were upset with the recurring sewage problems, but only Timmons was willing to speak on the record with EverythingLubbock.com
“I’m just the outspoken one I guess, that’s just as much as I can do,” he said. “Maybe the city will realize they need to step up and do something, because this by no means is acceptable.”