Raw sewage stagnating in Houston apartment complex

An apartment complex in west Houston stayed dry, until something even worse than flood water came in.

HOUSTON - One Houston apartment complex is stewing in the stench of raw sewage.

This is after Hurricane Harvey took two of the city's wastewater treatment plants off-line, causing back-ups.

William Barefield, 91, has lived here at Heritage Apartment Homes in west Houston for eight years.

When raw sewage started bubbling up from the drains in the property's underground garage as Harvey Swept through, his was one of two units in the building where the sewage kept going.

"In this water, you're getting some of everything: feces, you're getting mud, you're getting everything that comes with water when it's not in the right place," he said while gesturing to the brown, murky water pooled in the bottom of his shower.

Now, Barefield is looking to stay with family.

While the building didn't get any floodwater, it is getting sewage from surrounding homes and businesses.

"We just so happen to have a main line for pretty much this whole area on our property," community manager Jameelah Whitfield said.

The sewage is pooling in the underground garage, which spans half a block, and the stench is seeping up into the units and hallways.

"It's fresh sewage. That's exactly what it is," Whitfield said, describing the smell. "We've opened up doors, we've sprayed all kinds of enzymes and things like that to kind of hold down the smell, but it's not going to go away like that. We're just kind of making do until it gets resolved."

Whitfield brought in a pump earlier this week but said this is a problem she thinks the city should help fix.

"It seriously is a health issue. We are going to have to do a lot of different things to get our property back in order, and we really just want the city to help us with it," she said. "We're not looking to bash anybody, we just need them to help us get it back in order because we do have families here, we do have elderlies. We have ourselves, we have to work in this environment as well, and we just want them to come out and help us with it."

Houston's Public Works Department public information officer Alanna Reed said the city has 37 wastewater treatment plants, two of which are currently offline. Crews are working hard to get those back up and running, but until they do, situations like the one at Heritage Apartments this may continue to happen.

The two plants, both in West Houston, were still under as much as eight feet of water as recently as Monday, and until the water recedes, crews can't get them running again.

"A lot of it depends on how quickly they can access those wastewater treatment plants," Reed said, when asked about a timeline for getting those plants back online.

The city has 354 lift stations - part of the sanitary sewer and wastewater system - that are moving water. Twenty-eight that are not as of Thursday afternoon.

Whitfield told KHOU the city did contact her Thursday evening. Crews plan on working overnight to pump out the wastewater. Heritage Apartments has crews ready to come in and deep clean once the sewage is gone.

Information on the City of Houston’s Hurricane Harvey recovery can be found by clicking here.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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