Sanitary sewer overflows in Rainsville cause concern for residents

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RAINSVILLE, Ala. — Just off George Wallace Drive in Rainsville flows Piney Creek.

Off in the woods nearby is an overflowing sewer manhole.

“We’ve had large amount of rain in the last few days and due to the age in our system and dilapidation over the years and just things that needed to be done not getting done, we have a huge problem with inflow and infiltration which causes an SSO in an event like this,” said Rainsville Wastewater Treatment Plant Chief Operator Brad Willingham.

An SSO, as he mentioned stands, for sanitary sewer overflow.

Willingham took over as Chief Operator in December 2020 after his predecessor, Allen Maurice Stiefel, was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of an illegally manufactured alcoholic beverage and use of official position for personal gain, which is a felony charge. Authorities said Stiefel was brewing alcoholic drinks at a wastewater plant.

The one near Piney Creek was brought to our attention by a  concerned citizen who wants to remain anonymous.

The person told News 19 it has been a problem for decades and while it had been reported to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, nothing was ever done.

Willingham said SSOs usually happen at junctions where multiple trunk lines meet at the manhole.

“It just builds up and beyond the capacity of the system,” said Willingham.

He added that there is most likely not a threat to humans or wildlife.

“There could be potential for fecal coliform issues or E. coli issues in the creek for a few days. We’ll be monitoring that and sampling the water to know what’s going on there,” he explained.

Willingham told News 19 that fixing the sanitary sewer overflows are their top priority.

“We have addressed it, formed smoke tests to identify inflow and infiltration and we’ve got the results from that and began repairs on the system, it’s just a process that takes time. These things take years sometimes. we’re hoping within the next year to make some major improvements to the system,” added Willingham.

Willingham said they have an engineering firm coming in to give them ideas and evaluations on what can be done to fix  the sanitary sewer overflows for the future.

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