Drainage problems being addressed

Published 7:41 am Monday, April 25, 2005

By by Tim Cottrell
When reports on waste-water leaking into Tom Byrne Park surfaced earlier this month, many residents of Atmore were left to wonder what the problem was.
Tom Wolfe of the Atmore Utilities Department, and Kenny Smith, Wastewater Superintendent for the City of Atmore, wanted Atmore residents to know they were working hard to solve the problem.
"We just wanted the people of Atmore to know we are proactive in fixing these problems, rather than reactive," Wolfe said. "We've recently bought a camera truck so that we can go in and see the problem, and we're working hard to fix it."
Wolfe said that while the city was aware of the problem, fixing it could be difficult.
"It's not like a leak in a water line," Wolfe said. "All that water could be coming from a mile away. Lateral pipes could be leaking and when the streets flood it can cause a lot of excess water to come in through the manholes. The problem isn't due to neglect."
Smith was fairly sure that the problem on Lindberg Avenue was at least partly solved.
"We got in and looked at the pipe and it had a lot of corrosion," Smith said. "It's 140 feet of ductile iron pipe. We had to get Smith Industrial out of Mobile to come clean it, and we hope it will solve part of the problem. It can't hurt."
Smith and Wolfe were also eager to show off the wastewater department's newest purchases, a roving camera that can travel through wastewater pipes to search for corrosion, cracks, or other problems, the computer equipment to view what the camera was seeing, and a truck with several features, including a vacuum, used to clean out the sewer.
"We spent about $250,000 on the new equipment," Smith said. "We were paying one dollar a foot to look for problems and another dollar to clean them, and there's 40 miles of pipes down there. So we figured if we're paying someone to do it we might as well spend the money to do it ourselves."
Smith is also currently building a computerized system to monitor the intake of each pumping station. He also explained the function of each pumping station.
"Wastewater flows downhill," Smith said. "When it hits these pumping stations it shoots them uphill until they can start going downhill again. We have 12 of them and they do that until they hit a gravity line that sends them here."
The city's waste-water lines were built mostly in the early 1900s, and Wolfe felt it would be difficult to do a full-scale replacement of the 40 miles of pipes. He did, however, say he felt many of the recent problems were caused by recent calamities in the area.
"I think a lot of the problems we've had with our waste-water pipes was the earthquake (in 1997)," Wolfe said. "We've had more problems since that time. Ivan may have also caused some damage."
Smith agreed that Ivan could be a culprit in a few of the waste-water system's problems.
"We're going to have to wait and see, but I think Ivan did some damage to some of our lines," Smith said. "So many trees came up and the root systems may have pulled up some pipes."

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