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Sewer line creates stink on Bonelli

Drainage has been a problem for several homes on Bonelli Street including Leotis Stanford’s in the background. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[07/05/01] While new sewer lines have been added to annexation areas, older lines inside Vicksburg have been presenting problems.

For nearly two years residents in the midtown area along Bonelli and Martha streets said they complained about stinking fumes seeping into their homes. The stench was so foul, going into their yards was almost impossible.

City officials say they’ve now authorized repairs that will last. Residents said they hope so.

In 1999, the fumes were so great the city was called and repaired a pipe that actually runs beneath four Bonelli Street houses. During the next two years, the city repaired recurring problems with the line, believed to be nearly 100 years old. The last repair was made about four months ago.

James T. “Bubba” Rainer, the city’s public works director, said sometimes the old pipes crack because of extra soil placed on top or tree roots penetrate the line.

Katie Harris, a resident on Bonelli Street, saw her driveway cave in after dirt was drawn in through breaks in the sewer line.

The city repaired the hole in the line this year and now plans to move it from underneath the residents’ houses.

In fact, a new city contract for $165,000 with Walker & Wells Inc. to place city mains along U.S. 61 South includes rerouting the city’s sewer line on Bonelli Street.

Vicksburg, which was 13 square miles in size, added about 20 square miles in 1990, and contracts worth millions have since been entered to extend lines to new municipal areas or buy rural systems. Vicksburg is also extending sewer service to the River Region hospital site, which is outside the corporate limits.

Rainer said the Bonelli line’s new route will be on Kansas City Southern Railroad right of way, and because KCS has signed off on the project, work could begin this month.

North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young said she had asked the sewer department to go to Bonelli Street to fix the problem several times since 1999.

“It wasn’t until the last time that the problem became evident,” Young said.

Once the new line is installed, the city will abandon and fill the old line with grout, said city engineer Garnet Van Norman.

One resident in the area said he fears problems may linger.

Leotis Stanford, who has lived on Martha Street for nearly 20 years, said it was 1984 when he first experienced a problem with the city sewer line under his house. “Now, I have termite problems,” Stanford said.

In addition, the back of the house sank when water and debris seeped through the corroded pipe and ate away the dirt beneath the house, Stanford said. The residents have also hired an attorney.

A comprehensive survey to find leaks throughout the system would benefit the city, Van Norman said, but is not in the budget. A survey was performed nearly 20 years ago, but the Environmental Protection Agency funded it.