Alabama Storms Spur Millions of Gallons of Sewer Water Overflow

Feb. 13, 2020

Decatur Utilities is in the process of upgrading its facility to mitigate the effects of recent floods in Alabama. 


After days of rain, parts of Alabama are affected by millions of gallons of water that overflowed from sanitary sewer systems.

Reports submitted to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management showed that more than 18.5 million gallons of sewer water spilled over the course of 10 days around Birmingham and Tuscaloosa.

According to the National Weather Service, some spots received more than 6 inches of rain so far this week.

Tennessee Valley saw about 4.8 million gallons of sewage escape from sewer pipes in Decatur from Thursday to Saturday, reported ABC 33/40. Most of this sewage ended up in Dry Branch Creek. 

The general manager of Decatur Utilities, Ray Hardin, said upgrades are continuing. It is unclear whether all the problems are linked to storms or something else, reported ABC 33/40.

"I'm sensing a lack of urgency. I guess I want to see someone at Decatur Utilities running around like their hair's on fire trying to resolve this," said City Council member Billy Jackson, whose district includes most of Dry Branch Creek.

Decatur's aging system, which is comprised of clay pipe installed a half-century ago, is failing. Heavy rains can cause water to enter the sewer pipes, mixing with the sewage and exceeding the pipe's capacity. This results in diluted sewage spilling from manholes, reported ABC 33/40.

“It’s probably just too much rain going through the system but we don’t know for sure,” said Jerome Hand, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. “We require these systems to report them and we will investigate them and help them get back into compliance.”

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Cristina Tuser