Heavy rains, aged pipes spark sewage problems

Lake area sewage problems

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Problems from the weekend rainfall continue to surface, but some problems aren't new. Sewage backup has long been a problem when too much rain falls too quickly.

Residents along Clarence Street in downtown Lake Charles have experienced sewage problems for years during heavy rainfall.

The water pressure in the underground sewer systems forces manhole covers off the ground, allowing rainwater and raw sewage to flow freely down the streets, eventually making its way into Lake Charles.

"Yes it needs to be fixed," said John Chavanne, who lives on Clarence. "Yes it's affecting property value. Yes it's affecting the way of life downtown. And it's unsanitary. Bottom line."

"This has been going on," said Judy Reeves. "This isn't just this rain, this is every rain I know for the last five or six years."

Chavanne says he's been living in the area for years, but only recently realized it was sewage and not just rainfall flowing down the roadways.

"I've seen people through crawfish shells and leaves and things down the storm drains and that usually comes bubbling back up once we get a whole lot of rain. I figured that's what that was. I didn't know it was sewage. I didn't know it was raw sewage."

Reeves is a science teacher and teaches her students the importance of not polluting. She said her first concern is the sewage entering the lake.

"I was a little upset that I knew that this water was draining straight into storm drains which is an unfiltered area," said Reeves. "Sewage usually goes through a sewage treatment plant and so it's cleaned and processed. Well, not on Clarence street."

Public works director Mister Edwards says his department is well aware of the problems and blames aged infrastructure for the leaks.

"70-80 years old. Think about it," said Edwards. "Some of these are the original lines from when the city was built. The originals. We have 70, 80, 50 year old lines all throughout the city."

During heavy rain falls, sand bags are placed on the manhole covers as well as barricades to warn drivers of the areas. It's a temporary fix, but Edwards says they're doing everything they can to deal with the problem long term. Their current solution is rehab."

"Rehab would be going in and inspecting these lines, find out where we have broken lines and trying to fix where we call point repair," said Edwards. "We have one point and we go in and fix that where water has been infiltrating into that sewer line. We've been doing that for years here in the city. Edwards says Clarence Street isn't the only place residents see sand bags and barricades during heavy rains."

He says the city has 10-15 locations where manhole covers are forced off due to the water pressure.

Edwards also says a lot of the problems stem tree roots growing into the pipes and also from residents removing the caps from their own sewer systems to drain their yards.

He reminds residents that this is against city ordinance and a contribution to the sewage back up problem.

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.