ALBERTON — Community members are concerned with leaking sewage in one neighborhood of Alberton.
A broken pump at a wastewater treatment pond known as Sewage Lagoon has impacted at least one home with severe flooding for over a month.
“We've had raw sewage leaking for over a month running down Parkway [Drive] forming in ponds. It's going to affect people's wells. There are children around here, and you can't even drive down the street right now because the ruts are so deep and it smells," Alberton resident Rosie Zimmerman told MTN News.
Zimmerman and other neighbors told MTN News they are concerned for their children’s health and the quality of the nearby Clark Fork River due to this month-long leak.
Just down the road from Sewage Lagoon, untreated sewage runs down the street and floods the front yard of at least one house on Parkway Drive.
The homeowner wanted to remain anonymous but spoke with MTN News saying he came home on New Year's Eve to a flooded basement. He bought the property a little over a year ago and was unaware of the flooding issue.
“No one said anything to me about it. It wasn’t disclosed at all,” he said, adding; “it’s really frustrating. Thank God none of my kids have gotten sick.”
Outside the house, a manhole, covered by a statue, is overflowing. A stream of sewage flows down the street seeping into the groundwater. The anonymous homeowner said a plumber told him the city was responsible for fixing the issue.
According to Zimmerman, it’s a recurring problem; “well about once a year or so, I just have raw sewage backing up through my pipes because the town's sewer system is old and I've just dealt with it," she said.
Zimmerman said she typically cleans up the property damage on her own, but that this year, it’s worse than ever, "I can't even use my toilet in the basement because it won't flush because there's no pressure from the sewer backed up.
A Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) compliance inspector was on the scene Monday assessing and documenting the situation.
Right now, the town isn’t able to provide a solution.
“The former wastewater operator retired, or quit, and we've — the town is having trouble finding someone to replace him," Alberton maintenance worker Marvin Garding told MTN News.
Garding says he took on the role of Interim Wastewater Operator until the position gets filled and so far, it’s been three months.
“The situation is bad and I understand we're having trouble with our pumps at our Sewage Lagoon. Currently, one of two pumps just broke down. We have a new one coming but because of the weather all over the Midwest, shipping is a problem." - Alberton maintenance worker Marvin Garding
Water is typically pumped into ponds at Sewage Lagoon where treatment takes place but right now, a broken pump means the surrounding homes are experiencing consequences.
“The town's sewer system needs to be updated and they need qualified people, and they need to pay somebody a reasonable wage and they need to have help, so they can actually maintain the town sewer system," Zimmerman said.
The Montana Department of Quality's Public Policy Director Rebecca Harbage sent MTN News the following statement this evening:
"There are no public water supply wells in the affected area and DEQ provided guidance to a nearby property owner about how to disinfect and test a private well before using it again."
The statement continued.
"There is currently no evidence that sewage has reached the Clark Fork River or other surface waters. At this time, the Town of Alberton has committed to pumping the influent wet well to prevent further overflow until a replacement pump arrives and can be installed. At approximately 1pm today, after pumping, sewage was no longer overflowing. DEQ will be issuing a violation letter requiring the town to clean up the affected area and develop a plan and timeline to prevent future issues with the system."
From the town of Alberton website:
Our Water system is fed from a spring on the north side of town. There is a 300,000 gallon tank that holds the water. It is chlorinated. There is a well house and pump located on Parkway Drive for backup purposes only.
Our lagoon system is a three cell system with UV disinfection. The main lift station is located at the lagoon. It flows into the Clark Fork river so the town is required to take weekly, monthly and quarterly tests for DEQ. There is a lift station located at the east end of town that also feeds into the main system.
This is why it is so important that you do not flush anything other than what is supposed to be flushed.