This past weekend’s rains in Houston did not help the city’s existing sewage problem. The most recent rains exacerbated the city’s troubles with raw sewage collecting on downtown streets. In fact, the Halloween rains caused more than two million gallons of raw sewage to bubble up onto the streets and into the bayous.
Local resident Steve Sherlund, who lives along the Buffalo Bayou, observed that, “It’s just a horrible stench and I’ve had to wade through it constantly walking through here.”
Another resident, Brandon O’Quinn pointed out that, “You never think about sewage. It’s kind of the last thing anybody wants to hear.”
The waste water spilled out at four sites across Houston, including University of Houston Downtown at Travis, I-45 at Wrightwood, Highway 59 at Parker and I-610 at Cambridge. The bayous affected include the White Oak, Buffalo, Brays and Sims bayous.
City of Houston Public Works spokesperson Alvin Wright stated that, “When you’ve got 10 inches of rain in a 24 hour period, all systems are going to be compromised.” The rain and flooding at the spill sites overwhelmed the already struggling systems.
Wright also emphasized that the problem is not something that can be fixed. Storm water creates so much pressure that it overpowers the sanitary sewer system and pushes sewage through manhole covers.
People from the area say it’s a familiar, recurring problem.
Resident John Lindsey observes that, “There’s only so much you can with the bayou, you can’t really dress it up to make it something it’s not. It’s an open irrigation ditch, basically an open sewer.”
As Houston continues to invest money to improve the bayous and conduct new projects and development, residents believe that the city has to repair the spillage problem so that every storm does not result in such a mess.
Sherlund stated that, “They have TV specials to try to get people out to the bayou. Hopefully it’s all flushed out pretty quick or taken out into the ocean.”
Wright emphasizes that the only thing the city can do is to be prepared. During and after a spillage, cleanup crews suck up the waste and apply a chlorine or bleach disinfectant to ensure the area is sanitary.
City officials informed residents that the cleaning operation was finished but that residents and tourists should not swim in the bayou and definitely should not drink the water.