By Jessica Farrish
Every time a heavy rain comes to the area, Jerry Fox and Dollie Stilton’s home on Ewart Avenue floods.
Heavy rains in the area Monday night and steady showers throughout the region Tuesday morning caused a nearby creek to rise and water from run-off to flow into their backyard, the couple said Tuesday.
“It’s been doing this for three or four years or longer,” said Stilton, 70, who moved to the house several years ago from South Carolina. “You can smell the sewer.
“We have to wade through it through our front yard to even get groceries up the steps.”
Both Stilton and Fox, 61, are diabetic, said Stilton.
“This kind of problem can cause diseases,” she said. “We both have health problems.
“We don’t want to be breathing that.”
Beckley Sanitary Board General Manager Jeremiah Johnson said Tuesday that there are four or five manholes on Ewart Avenue that have “been issues.”
There was a major replacement to a line several years ago, but the flooding has persisted, he said.
The first step in addressing the issue is completion of a stormwater facility on Ewart that would possibly reduce the flooding in the area of Robert C. Byrd Drive and Ewart after storms.
“Once that’s complete, we’ll look at Ewart and see where we need to take the new phase,” he said.
The storm water facility was initially expected to be completed this month but is not yet complete due to rainy weather, he added.
He said Monday's storm was the “most significant flooding event” since construction on the project began several years ago.
Johnson explained that the Ewart Avenue sewer issue is complicated because the Ewart system ties into Robert C. Byrd Drive.
“When the Robert C. Byrd Drive system is over-capacity, it fills up, and (Ewart) is where it relieves itself,” said Johnson.
Johnson said the water that gushes from the sewer system is “diluted, untreated waste water.”
“The reason (the sewer seepage) happens is basically inflow and infiltration,” explained Johnson. “Water that’s either inflow, which is caused by a pipe that’s a poor leader, stuff not supposed to be tied into the system, and infiltration is ground water that fills up the line where you don’t have a watertight system.”
The rainfall over a half-hour period Monday night had a 4 percent chance of happening in a year, Johnson said.
“We had 1.88 inches of rainfall,” he reported, adding that the rainfall created problems similar to the Ewart problem all over the city.
He said sanitary and stormwater crews were out for several hours in the night and came to work early Tuesday to identify and assess problems caused by flooding in the city.
There is not a solid deadline for addressing the Ewart sewage problem due to the complex nature of its ties to Robert C. Byrd Drive.
Johnson said there may be state monies available for infrastructure repair, but application has not yet been made.
“What do we do? It’s back to individual projects, individual focusing down, trying to find places, whether it’s a leaky manhole, or a line going through someone’s yard,” he said. “We’ve done quite a bit of pipe replacement over the years, but that issue (on Ewart) sort of persists.”