Residents concerned about sewage flowing into Jefferson City lake

Investigations

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. (WATE) – People who live off the Byrd Spring branch of Cherokee Lake in Jefferson City are concerned about contaminated water pouring into the lake. Homeowners say raw sewage has been flowing into their cove since late February. They say the city knows about the problem but nothing has been done.

Managers at Jefferson City’s public works department say following February’s record fain, floodwater infiltrated or flooded their water lines in several low lying areas.

Water gushes from a manhole cover on Sherdon Valentine’s property. The stream flows directly into Cherokee Lake. The Byrd Springs community is a few miles from downtown Jefferson City. 

“That’s paper products coming up through the lid there,” he said.

Valentine says he’s been dealing with the issue for about six weeks and it appears around 100 gallons per hour are flowing. He says he’s called Jefferson City’s public works department many times.

“I called them because a lot of solids were coming out. It’s not so bad until the sewage gets to stinking, then stuff starts coming out of it other than clear water,” Valentine said.

There’s another overflowing sewer manhole about a hundred yards away, the length of a football field, from Valentine’s home.

“We got a mess here. We got sewer bubbling up out of this manhole. That’s been a real problem,” said Scott Clayton.

The sewer opening is on Clayton’s property. His neighbor is Ryan Ferguson. Ferguson says the city placed a stone on top of the sewer cover a few weeks ago.

Since late February, the lake level has receded 15 to 20 feet following February’s weeklong rainstorm. However, the lake was at full pool then. 

“After all the flooding, water was shooting out of the manhole cover here probably a good foot to a foot and a half high. It was dumping raw sewage into the lake. This is a real popular cove for people to do windsurfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing. It’s just disgusting to think about going into this water,” said Ferguson.

Valentine says he’s asked the city to do something.  

“I’d like for them to fix it up. To get it stopped. Getting it stopped is the main thing,” Valentine said.

“We’ve contacted city public works several times. They don’t seem to be able to get a handle on it,” said Clayton.

The city’s utility department says a long section of its sewer system near the Bryd Spring area is flooded because by February’s record rain and that a nearby pump station is unable to handle the excessive amount of stormwater, but the city is trying to get it under control.

“They’ve been good to talk to, personable. They answer phone calls. They have not fixed it yet,” said Ferguson.

WATE 6 On Your Side contacted the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. TDEC said it will sample water quality of Cherokee Lake once the water table returns to normal levels.  

State environmental inspectors had not been to that cove on Cherokee Lake when WATE 6 On Your Side called. Within a day, an inspector checked the site. TDEC said, “Clear water was escaping, but there were no solids or debris.”

The state says Jefferson City will have to “look for a solution to prevent future overflow from occurring again.”

The head of the utility department says it’s going to cost at least $20,000 to make repairs, but there’s no timetable yet.

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