City of Houston: Sewage spills can't be prevented in heavy rain events

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The City of Houston says there is no way to prevent raw sewage from spewing into the streets when we receive as much rain as we did this weekend.

"When you've got 10 inches of rain in a 24 hour period, all systems are going to be compromised," said City of Houston Public Works spokesperson Alvin Wright.

Houston filed a report with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality following the spills which Wright says dumped at least 121,000 gallons of sewage out of at least five locations throughout the city.

One of those locations was on Commerce Street between Milam and Travis. Attorney Randy Sorrels is part of a practice there. As they worked late into the night Saturday he says they saw the sewage begin to bubble up.

"You can imagine what sewage smells like and your imagination would be correct in what it smelled like in this street," Sorrels said.

He and his partners are frustrated because they have reported the problem previously to the city and it still happens. Over the Memorial Day flood, storm water and sewage flowed into their offices, causing thousands of dollars in damage. "This is a problem the city should fix, quite frankly," said Sorrels.

Wright says it's not something which can be fixed. As he explains it, the storm water inundates the sanitary sewer system upstream through manhole covers. That storm water overburdens the sanitary sewer system and at points down stream it then can create so much pressure that the water and the raw sewage push out of manhole covers.

The only thing the city can be do, Wright says, is to be prepared. Cleanup crews suck up the sewage and use a chlorine or bleach disinfectant to ensure the area is not unsanitary.
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