Residents in Monroe’s Criswell Road and Vine Street area raise concerns over sewage seepage

Residents say under heavy rains overflow from sewer lines runs into the creek

MONROE, GA (Feb. 1, 2024) Since a development has been under construction in the Vine Street area of Monroe, Criswell Road residents downstream from the adjoining creek have had to contend with excessive flooding during the raining season. But it is the sewage that they believe comes along with the overflow from city sewage lines in the Vine Street area that has them concerned about the potential health risk to the community. Jonathan Ordway, who has a farm in the area alongside the creek, said he believes that the community should be made aware of the concerns.

Heavy rains in January 2024 cause flooding in the Vines Street/Criswell Road area. Contributed photo

“We don’t know how long the sewer overflows have gone on, I only went searching last week looking for answers as to why our property was flooding and stumbled across the sewage,” Ordway said. “We have been experiencing major floods on our farm now for non-major rain events for over a year with catastrophic flooding on major rain events. David Carrell, who has had his water buffalo on our property for years and years, said he has never seen the flooding so bad as it has gotten. We had water buffalo floating over fences earlier this year and they got to run down Criswell for a bit. Fortunately I can get our cows into a higher pasture but I still have to fix fences from floods regularly now that have withstood 25 years with no problems. Our neighbor, Dallas, is the one who really prompted me and got me motivated to take action as in all the years they have lived next door, they have never seen the creeks flood like they have been.”

Ordway said he had initially reported the situation to employees at the City of Monroe with little response. He said they had told him that it was an abandoned line and therefore could not contain sewage.

Monroe City Administrator Logan Propes looked into the problem and initially believed it to be that this is one of the city’s sewer main lines in the Vine St vicinity, noting the problem was a temporary one due to the persistent heavy rains and did not have anything to do with the new Vines of Monroe development up the road. After consulting with staff, however, he confirmed that it was in fact an abandoned line, but reiterated that it therefore would not contain sewage.

“Upon further investigation that one manhole was indeed an abandoned line which is near a functional line so it was only full of storm water. No known sanitary sewer spillage,” Propes said.

But Ordway’s said his major concern was that under heavy rains, it did indeed have sewage seeping out and running into the creek. He said his concern was for the health of the community, especially since hearing that his daughter and her babysitter had been playing alongside the creek. He said sewage and toilet paper was clearly visible coming out of the manhole with the flood water. He has since got confirmation that the overflow does contain sewage. He said he got the confirmation after contacting the EPD.

Toilet paper and sewage from a Vine Street manhole during recent heavy rains. Contributed photo

“The EPD has confirmed with me that it is sewage. They also confirmed that the cause is likely from water overflowing from the development into the sewer. Taylor Nalewaik at the EPD can confirm this,” Ordway said. “The city initially blew me off and said that those lines were abandoned as well and told me this was just the way it is going to be when it rains from here on out. I just wasn’t willing to let it go, we’ve got to save my family’s farm. We left our small farm in Gwinnett to get away from this kind of nonsense and it’s obviously here too.”

However, Ordway said Propes has since got back to him and it seems that the City is indeed now taking the matter seriously. Tuesday this week, Propes had met with the City’s sewer team and confirmed to Ordway that they had walked the entire leg of the sewer line that feeds the line in the area.

“They made field notes of how many manholes need to be raised to help prevent any future issues due to persistent flooding and/or surcharging. They were also able to determine a potential cause of the flooding stemming from a storm pipe on the County side that was blocked up,” Propes said in an email to Ordway, adding, “Additionally, the Code office has notified the Vines of Monroe subdivision developer of potential deficiencies on their site that need to be remediated ASAP. The Sewer team is also completing a detailed report for EPD.”

Propes has given Ordway his assurances that the City is not taking the situation lightly and is doing everything possible to prevent any future sewer discharging. Propes told Ordway the City is also working with the County to keep storm pipes and culverts clear so the infrastructure can better handle future heavy rains.

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