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UPDATED: Sewage Overwhelms Jackson Home as City Rolls Back Assistance

J.T. Newell standing in his front yard, where sewage is swelling up.

J.T. Newell standing in his front yard, where sewage is swelling up. Photo by Taylor Langele

— J.T. Newell, a resident of Jackson for the past three years, has consistently had a pool of feces in his yard.

"I have always had an issue with my clean-outs overflowing when there was heavy rain, but it was never enough to really make a big deal about," Newell told the Jackson Free Press about the bubbling puddle of sewage coming from under his front lawn. "It always seemed to subside, or the City would vacuum the lines after a rain, as they are fully aware the sewer lines take on surface water and fill with rainwater." The access line, where the connects to vacuum out excess drainage, is located less than fifty-yards away from Newell's driveway.

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J.T. Newell standing in his front yard, where sewage is swelling up.

In May 2018, however, the problem took a turn for the worse when the black sewage water began sweltering up from beneath a hall bathroom toilet, flooding Newell's residence in north Jackson and causing an estimated $13,000 in damages. He was forced to gut his home and begin working on a complete remodel.

"The walls and baseboards, all the flooring I had to tear out," Newell said during a tour of his refurbished home, pointing past the former location of entire vanities and cabinets that he had to remove because of mildew.

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One of many areas where entire vanities and cabinets had to be replaced due to mildew.

In response to Newell's distress, the City of Jackson sent utility trucks on Dec. 20 to vacuum out the sewage lines located less than 50 yards away from his front door. For a month, the City sent an adequate amount of personnel to keep the lines at bay.

But even when the City sent trucks regularly, the problem was far from solved. Newell said the vacuumed lines only last about three or four hours. Then, "it's already backing up and flooding again," Newell said. "So they say that they're sending trucks out twice a day which, doing the math, is four-hour relief. They need to be coming out six times a day."

However, starting in August, the City rolled back the response, just sending a minimal amount of labor to address the ongoing problem. As of Monday, Jan. 28, the City had not provided service in more than a week.

The Department of Public Works declined to comment for this story, and City spokeswoman Candice Cole did not respond by press time.

Newell said the flow of sewage has continued and shows few signs of ceasing.

"I have never seen it flood and back up as much as it has at this point," Newell said. "I, along with my brother and most of our neighbors, was constantly calling and reporting the issue with no actions being taken. It was flooding my front yard, my front porch, my driveway, around the side and into my backyard, and my neighbor to the east's driveway and front yard."

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Hall toilet in Newell's home, which sewage overtook from the ground level.

The residents started posting to the City's "311" application only to see their requests marked "Cancelled" within three hours of posting with no action taken by municipal workers.

At the end of the tour, Newell pointed out a pool of sewage in his backyard that was running off into a main-line surface drain behind his home. "I don't think those are supposed to intermingle," Newell said as he pointed at a black pool of water sliding into the drainage ditch.

The World Health Organization says such open sewage is dangerous, in a report about increased risks that industrialized societies have with contaminated surface waters.

"In many countries, public concern has developed around groups of such substances," it states. "Among the substances that may cause concern are pharmaceuticals, personal-care products, and their metabolites. Such chemicals may enter surface waters from sewage effluents, but also pharmaceuticals widely used in animal husbandry, such as antibiotics and growth hormones. This problem occurs predominantly in industrialized countries with high rates of both per capita consumption of these chemicals and per capita connection to sewerage systems."

The publication says that some of these chemicals can lead to disruption in endocrine processes in adults and children. The endocrine system is vital to hormone regulation and development, regulating metabolism, general growth and development, tissue function, sexual function and reproduction, sleep cycles, and mood.

UPDATE: On Thursday, Jan. 31, Dr. Charles Williams of the public works department issued a statement to the Jackson Free Press about sewage issues in the city.

"The Public Works Department is continuing to investigate the multiple sewer collection issues near Belle Glade Street and the surrounding areas," he said. "The collection system in this area is aged with multiple sewer issues resulting in overflows and sewage backups, some of which have stemmed from Ridgewood Road. Sewer repair crews have been active in their approach to mitigate the ongoing issues and have been working to identify and address them as quickly as possible.

"This is not an isolated issue as our sewer collection system has been deteriorating throughout the entire city. Right now, crews are working to maintain the lines until a long-term solution can be put into place.

"Public Works crews are also working through the city's FOG (fats, oils and grease) program to address violators who pour fats, oils, and grease down their drains contributing to the sewer collection system issues.

"The Department of Public Works is committed to reducing the occurrence of sewer overflows within our sanitary sewer collection system."

Email information and story tips to city reporting intern Taylor Langele at taylor@jacksonfreepress.com and follow him on Twitter at @taylorlangele.


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