Mayor Tab Bowling of Decatur is talking about the city's sanitary sewage overflow problem for the first time. This comes after Decatur Utilities announced more than two dozen instances of overflows in the last two weeks.
Full Statement from Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling:
"Decatur Utilities has a plan and it is clearly stated in the information they sent to include background information. Nothing has changed since the last update distributed by Decatur Utilities.
"Decatur Utilities and their three (3) member board are the experts. They are proceeding with their ten (10) year improvement plan that was implemented in 2013.
"I expect to meet with Decatur Utilities management and possibly board members this week. I would like to discuss options to expedite efforts to improve our sanitary sewer collection system piping and manholes."
Decatur Utilities says there were 15 sewage overflows across the city due to last week's heavy rain. The initial report said 13. During the weekend of Dec. 22nd, they reported 12 overflows, leading to more than 800,000 gallons of sewage water. Decatur Utilities says it will learn exactly how much sewage water was released from the recent rain later this week.
Tim Troullier, who lives in an impacted Decatur neighborhood, wants to know what the city is doing.
"I've not been contacted or notified or anything, and one of the signs is just a couple of blocks down from my house," Troullier said.
City officials tell WAAY31 they can't punish Decatur Utilities because is actually separate from the city. The utility company receives no funding from the city, and they are mandated by state law.
WAAY31 is told city officials do not have the power to hold Decatur Utilities responsible, but the state does, and they are.
The city says the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) will fine Decatur Utilities for all of these sewage overflows. ADEM has not responded to our inquiries as to how much those fines will be.
"You're wallowing around in human waste," Troullier said.
Decatur Utilities says it has spent more than $60 million in the past 10 years to fix the problem and replace old pipes that are starting to break and crack. Yet, the process still will take years to fully replace all of the broken material.