By CARL SMITH
During Tuesday’s board of aldermen meeting, Starkville Public Services Director Doug Devlin said his department has taken measures to ensure the city’s sewage system can effectively handle heavy rain incidents like those observed this spring.
In April, the city experienced problems handling excess flooding in the form of drainage issues and overflowing manholes following heavy rains.
Devlin said the three areas with the biggest issues during that time were Carver Drive, Woodland Heights and Eckford Drive.
Carver Drive’s issues, Devlin told the board, stemmed from the installation of a new sewage collection system near the area in 2005. Two pumping stations were removed during that project. The Trim Cane Pumping Station, which serves the Carver Drive area, experienced a high-volume flow it could not handle, and manholes overflowed as a result.
In times of high volume, city workers now use a portable pump at the Trim Cane Pumping Station to alleviate the situation.
“When we installed the interceptor — the main trunk line for the sewer — two pumping stations were removed. Instead of (sewage) being pumped to the south, it now flowed into a new area — northwest Starkville. In turn, that pumps into the Trim Cane station,” Devlin said. “We will wheel the portable pump up when we need it, and it comes on whenever the wet well gets above the inlet from Carver (and pushes excess water into a pooling location). When the wet well level goes back to normal, the lagoon drains back into the pumping station.”
As for the cause of Woodland Height’s and Eckford Drive’s issues, Devlin told the board tree roots had infiltrated pipes in the area which caused drainage issues.
“During a dry season, roots are always trying to go deeper to source of water. When they get near a sewer system, they start penetrating into that system,” Devlin said. “They come into a crack or a loose joint in a pipe. (Continuous growth) ends up like a big ball causing blockage.”
City workers treated these infiltrating roots with herbicide in August. Devlin said the solution is not immediate, but more and more of these roots will die off in the coming months. The city will also continue to monitor the system with the usage of dyes to detect cracks in the pipes and flow issues.
“There will always be problems because of how old our system is. It’s a lot of clay pipe with cracks and breeches. We’re trying to make it where we don’t have problems during normal (rain) events,” Devlin said. “During Tropical Storm Lee, (Woodland Heights) would have had three to four manholes seriously discharging. When it came through, it was limited to only one minor discharge.”
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said these fixes will hopefully make the city’s sewage system as strong as it possibly can be.
“Big storm events expose weaknesses to any city’s system — we had some exposed in the spring,” Wiseman said. “There’s no such thing as a sewer system that is completely storm proof because nature can do things that are all but unpreventable. It’s a constant work in progress, but we have a responsibility to take corrective action when a weakness in the system is exposed.”
Devlin also gave a status report to the board of aldermen Tuesday regarding the city’s progress in various past, current and future sewage and fire protection projects throughout the area annexed by the city in 1998.
Since the current board of aldermen took office, Devlin said projects near Sudduth Road, Fire Station Road, Greta Lane and Geechie Road have installed gravity sewers and fire hydrants. The sewage extensions can be used for future developments in these areas, he said.
“These projects provide fire protection capabilities for those areas. Starkville Fire Department equipment has to have high flow (of water) for its pumper trucks,” Devlin said. “We just want to make sure people in these areas have the right infrastructure in the event of a fire.”
Future projects of similar nature include the addition of fire protection for Rockhill, Butler and Stowood roads and the installation of sewage services in the Louisville Street and Henderson Road area; the West Garrard Road and Babylon Road area; the Bluefield Road area — a development which could receive a Community Development Block Grant — and southwest Starkville.
“The extension of sewer services and fire protection to the 1998 annexed territory was a big goal of ours at the start of our term,” Wiseman said. “Doug is progressing very well to that goal.”