The utility said Sanitary Sewer Overflows, or SSOs, can happen when the sanitary sewer collection system is overwhelmed by rain that enters pipes through holes, broken pipes or leaking manholes. They said SSOs can continue up to three days after rainfall stops.
The utility had more than 6 million gallons of sewer water overflow in 2019, records show.
The problems come amid an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Alabama Attorney General’s office that argues beginning in 2014 Decatur Utilities has had dozens of unpermitted discharges of pollutants. The lawsuit says the Attorney General is empowered to seek a maximum of fine of $25,000 per violation. The case is ongoing.
[Look up Decatur Utilities sewer spill reports — permit number AL0048593]
NOTE: In your search: click on water, include Morgan County, and use permit number above.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management, ADEM, requires a “sewer overflow event” report, “if there is an overflow, spill, release or diversion of wastewater from a sanitary sewer system” that either reaches state surface water or “may imminently and substantially endanger human health” based on public exposure through public or private water supplies or where human contact could occur.
The recent reports include substantial spills, including a 486,000-gallon spill from a manhole on the 2100 block of Central Parkway in Decatur on Dec. 22.
A review of the utility’s reports to ADEM shows an estimated 675,000 gallons in sewer water spills in December 2019. Decatur Utilities reported similar problems from October to December 2018, though on a much smaller scale, about 80,000 gallons of wastewater spills.
Decatur Utilities said if an SSO affects an area, nearby residents are notified by an automated phone call. Areas are also marked with SSO signage and pink flags. Once the overflow stops, DU said the area is cleaned and disinfected.
They advise anyone who comes in contact with an overflow to wash normally with soap and water. Clothing should also be washed normally.
Decatur Utilities stresses their drinking water is safe and is not impacted by SSOs.