'We're very apologetic': Baytown city officials work to address sewage backup during heavy rains

Erica Simon Image
Friday, May 12, 2023
Baytown residents deal with raw sewage backup: 'It's to be expected'
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Baytown city officials are "apologetic" about the ongoing issue with the area's raw sewage problem when heavy rain arrives.

BAYTOWN, Texas (KTRK) -- Every time there's a heavy rain, neighbors in Baytown worry - not just about flooding, but raw sewage backup.

It's a messy problem that's been going on for years, and every time there's a wastewater overflow, the city is obligated by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to send out a notice. The latest one was issued just Wednesday.

The city seems to have the perfect storm of problems every time there's a major weather event. Its close proximity to the coast and aging infrastructure means water sometimes doesn't have anywhere to go.

"It's to be expected," resident Karen Bach said.

According to the public notice sent out, there were more than 100,000 gallons of released wastewater Wednesday in Goose Creek receiving stream. That means areas all over the city saw raw sewage bubbling up.

"These heavy rainfall events, the water has to go somewhere. And when there's water like that, you have rain all day kind of thing. Water is going to come up from the manhole," Jason Calder, public information officer for the City of Baytown, said.

City officials say despite the perception, the public drinking water is safe to drink and bathe in. They just have to issue a notice every time this happens, in compliance with TCEQ.

"We're very apologetic. We don't want this to be an issue with anybody," Calder continued.

Some would argue it is an issue that's happening too often. According to TCEQ, from Sept. 18, 2019, to Sept. 22, 2022, Baytown had 403 Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) reports.

Bach says she's seen crews clearing out ditches and pipes over the years, and it has made a difference. Until a more permanent fix is made, she plans to do the best she can.

"I don't keep stuff on the floor in my garage that's on a slab. Everything's up now in case it overflows in there," she explained.

The City of Baytown has spent $137 million since 2002 in capital improvement projects to rehab the sewer system. ABC13 is told the city will continue to spend millions to replace again infrastructure, invest in "smart manholes," and be proactive.

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