Local News

Sewage Overflow Debate Heats Up as Rain Subsides

Posted January 25, 1999

— Weekend rains flooded into leaky waste-water pipes across North Carolina pushing 49 sewage plants past their capacity.

Kinston's Peachtree sewage plant in Lenoir County overflowed with water, and some of the sludge deposited into a swamp bordering the Neuse River.

"This waste is deposited into the swamp, and over a period of time it accumulates," says Ernie Seneca, spokesman for theDivision of Water Quality. "Last year some areas had up to 2 feet of sludge."

Seneca's job is to keep the rivers clean. Scott Stevens' job is to keep Kinston's Peachtree sewage plant running.

"This has been a problem since the 1970s," Stevens said.

Kinston is pushing a short-term plan to use a dormant, 28-acre lagoon right next to the Peachtree plant for sewage overflow.

"What we'd like to do, and what we've proposed to the state, is to allow us to use [the lagoon] on a short-term basis, meaning three to five years, as an overflow during emergencies." Stevens said.

The lagoon is just like a hog farm lagoon except, "any water that goes into it will go back into the treatment plant once the flows have slowed down," Stevens said.

The state does not support the plan.

"Our concerns are the structural integrity of the lagoon, could it hold up to this waste being put into it?" Seneca said. "This lagoon is not their silver bullet for the situation at hand. They've got long-term needs that have to be addressed. They're working that way, but right now, the lagoon is not an option for them in our minds."

Seneca added that Kinston is just one of dozens of North Carolina cities with a similar problem.

"The state did not get in this shape overnight," he said. "And it's going to take a long time to clean up."

There is some help on the way for these communities with sewage problems. Last year North Carolina voters passed an$800 million water and sewer bond referendum. The only problem is, the total cost of fixing our sewer system problems is estimated at $12 billion.

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