Grease buildups causing sewage overflows in Houston

March 18, 2013 8:55:48 PM PDT
Action 13 is investigating a disgusting problem in a Houston apartment complex, and at the core of this issue is something that happens all over the city.

"You see, this is feces and toilet paper and sewage right outside my baby's window," Angela Spears said.

Spears shot cell phone video of what residents say happens when the sewer pipes over flow at the Arcadia at Westheimer Apartments. She showed us the scraps of toilet paper that remain behind after the lines erupt.

"Bubble up here, goes all the way around to my granddaughter's window," she said.

Spears said the first sign of trouble comes from inside her apartment.

"I can be sitting down watching TV and then I will hear 'burp' and my toilets are overflowing," Spears said.

Spears said the problem has happened more than once and she wants something done about it.

The apartment complex manager told us the city of Houston is working on the problem, so we asked Public Works officials what was causing the mess.

"What we have found is an overabundance of fats, oils and grease clogging up the sanitary sewer system," said Gary Norman with Public Works.

Norman said the city has unclogged grease from the sewer lines leading out of the complex four times in the last year. When residents dump grease into the toilets or sink, it builds up and causes overflows, he said.

While Spears said she does not get rid of grease in that way, the city claims many others are doing it.

"We spend about $3.5 million per year on this effort, just cleaning fats, oils and grease out of the city sewer system," Norman said.

The city says its lines are now clean, but the city cannot clean out lines on private property. If the city's effort does not solve the problem, the complex itself will have to hire a firm to clean up the sewer lines on its property.

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