Daleville mayor gives explanation for recent sewage leaks
Water Board Superintendent and Mayor Jayme Stayton responded after two sewage leaks that were recently reported in Daleville have been surrounded by controversy.The first reported sewage leak occurred in the woods near Culpepper Park around Dec. 8-10, 2017. A report was not published until January.According to Stayton, this leak was caused by a combination of erosion because of heavy rains and the development of an underground spring."We had noticed that we had low flow at the treatment plant, so that made (water department employees) look even harder," he said. "We came across a broken sewer line in the woods, which was actually caused by weather – the heavy rains we had– and an underground spring formed that washed the sewer line out."The report states that between an estimated 750,000 and 999,999 gallons of water were lost during the leak. It also states that the reason for the delay in reporting the leak was a "communication break down between Mayor and operator.""You have to mark between 750,000 to 1 million," he said. "There was no real way of calculating it. I thought you could, and that's where the whole inlying problem came from."It was my fault because I thought we had to try to calculate and figure out how much (had leaked), so I told Orson (Bullard) to wait. In reality, you don't because there's no real way to calculate it."He said he also believe repair projects had to be completely done before reports were submitted."I thought, as water board superintendent, that you would have to have everything (completed)," he said. "I didn't realize there was a process until (the Alabama Department of Environmental Management) told me that you report it then."Who doesn't make mistakes? It happens. What did not happen was, there was no hesitation in getting it fixed. We had it fixed immediately."The cost of the repairs was around $10,000 to fix the pipeline and around $31,000 to work on the area around the line, or the "dirt work."The report also lists Claybank Creek as the "ultimate destination of discharge."Stayton said the nearest major water source was listed there, but Claybank Creek was not actually affected by the leak.A second sewage leak occurred in the Lakeview Drive area of Daleville around Jan. 22.The report was published in the Daleville Sun-Courier that also stated an estimated 750,000 to 999,999 gallons of sewage leaked from a manhole that was described as being clogged with grease and sand."It was a manhole that was overflowing," Stayton said. "This particular (leak) was caused by grease, people pouring grease in their drains."It builds up over time. You unstop it in one place, and it could go on down and stop up another place. We believe this is what happened because that is a problem area for us and we've already unstopped two that were up the hill. I believe we unstopped it, but it went on down and stopped up that manhole."Stayton said Councilmember and Water Board Co-Chairman Scott Moore contacted him and the rest of the water board about the overflowing manhole.Moore said he did visit the site to confirm a leak was occurring.Stayton said he immediately contacted the water department, and later ADEM, about the issue. He said the water department had not been contacted previously.The report for the second incident also names Claybank Creek as the ultimate destination of discharge. Stayton said he did not believe any gray water, or water affected by the sewage overflow, made it to Claybank Creek."It went into the little, small (tributary), but then, it had a long ways before it went into Claybank Creek. What people don't realize is, as some of the water washed down, the sand was filtrating it. I don't think it even affected Claybank Creek at all."The second leak was recorded in a video and shared on social media by Daleville citizen Teri West.West said she was walking in the area of the manhole with her cat, Mufasa, after seeing water and sewer department vehicles working in the area for "weeks.""(My sister and I) have seen the city water and sewer department out at our place many times a week for a very long time, and it had seemed like the last few weeks, it's been even more," she said. "They always went down in that area, so I decided, when I went for my walk with my cat, I was going to walk down in that area. I had seen (a sewer truck) go in there, and the guy just went down and left, so I assumed the place was all fixed. I wanted to see what they had been working on, and that's when I came across that."I was just so angry that they left it that way, you know. Just left the lid off and let it just overflow."She said she initially posted the video on social media, but took it down and uploaded it again until she spoke with Councilmember Moore."I kind of did post it, but then I took it down to go talk to Scott Moore with the city council and made sure he knew what was going on before I posted it," she said. "He immediately made some phone calls, and he, himself, went out there to take pictures and address it."Moore said he appreciated her alerting someone as soon as possible."I appreciate her contacting us as quickly as she did," he said.West said she posted the video again because she thought the issue should have been taken care of while workers were at the site."While I was walking down that path, the water department drove right by me, looked at me, did a U-turn and left," she said. "I figured they must have fixed it if he's going to just drive down, see me walking down there, make a U-turn and then leave. There's no other reason for him to be down there, except to check on that, and he didn't."I had to go over the city. I couldn't call the city and water. They're just going to go cover up what they did and then go do it on another manhole."She said she also did not want the situation to occur again at another area of the city."I had no idea it would go viral," she said. "I wouldn't have gone that route if I hadn't seen them out there every day for so long, and that was how they left it."Stayton said a clog that caused the sewage overflow could develop quickly."I can go pop the lid on this manhole, look in it, and it's running fine," he said. "(I can put the lid back on it, come back two days later, and it could be running over, just like that. It's really hard, unless the city wants to pay somebody to constantly walk sewer lines all day. We try to stay on top of it. We've got our problem areas that we check on."Stayton said the department checks manholes in what are deemed "trouble areas" every Friday. The entire system is checked twice a year, he said.When there is a reported leak or overflow, Stayton said he contacts the water and sewer department to begin fixing the problem."I call the water/sewer department," he said. "We go out there and look at it and determine how to stop it from overflowing, whether it's the sewer jet or sometimes, you can use a bar that's shaped like an L. We go out there, see what we need to get to fix it, see which manhole it is and how to get to it, and then we go get what we need to unstop it."For the reported overflow in the Lakeview Drive area, West said the area looked as if it had been covered over with dirt. After posting the video and contacting Moore, she said the area looked as if a backhoe was brought in and dirt was moved to cover the trash that leaked from the hole."I told the other reporter (from a local news station) that I thought they had just covered it up because we could still see debris around the hole," she said.Stayton said the area was cleaned up using the backhoe."If we can get the backhoe out there and we can get a layer of dirt up, we'll get it up," he said. "If we can't get a backhoe out there, then we have to get it up with flathead shovels and put it in a regular garbage can."It appeared that the area had been cleaned by Sunday, Jan. 28, but gray water could still be seen flowing into the small creek near the manhole.Stayton said this water was tested after the leak was reported."The sewer water won't ever make it to Claybank Creek," he said. "It will never make it down there because it will be filtrated out by the sand, but what we do, if it does dump straight into a creek, even one that small, we got out there and we grab samples that are tested for e. coli and other stuff. The creek and water sources are tested to make sure it's safe."Stayton said overflowing manholes occur in every city."Every municipality has this problem, and if they don't, they're lying," he said. "Manholes are going to run over. It happens."What needs to happen is, people need to quit putting grease down their drains. They need to quit flushing baby wipes down the drain. People know what they should flush or what they shouldn't flush. The majority of it is baby wipes and grease. Quit pouring your grease down there; we can't fight that. We try to put degreaser in our lines to help take care of it, but without the citizens' help, there's always going to be problems."If any citizen has any questions about the city's sewage system or wishes to report a possible leak, both Stayton and Moore said to contact the water department. Stayton said individual could also contact the mayor's office. During weekends, he said to contact the city's police department.