Uniontown residents given vague sewage update

Published 8:17pm Tuesday, July 8, 2014

UNIONTOWN — The wastewater treatment issues that have plagued Uniontown for decades were discussed during Monday’s city council meeting — for roughly 45 seconds.

Two hours into the first council meeting of the month, Mayor Jamaal Hunter gave the crowd of some 20 residents a vague update on the project that has seen $4.8 million spent already and is still far from complete.

“We are continuing our efforts to come up with a viable solution to the problems that we are experience,” Hunter said. “I met with Sentell Engineering last week, and I had a meeting scheduled with a second engineering firm on Thursday, but they had to cancel for some reason or another.”

Hunter said he would reach out to the second engineering firm, as well as others, in the coming weeks.

Following Monday’s meeting, Hunter would not identify either the second firm he had intended to meet with last week or the additional firms he will be contacting in the coming weeks.

Many of the wastewater issues surround the city’s two sprayfields; the older of which has been the source of sewage leaks for more than a decade, and a second field, constructed by Sentell, which has not been used because of concerns about its ability to handle the amount of treated water the city produces every day.

An order from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management prohibits the use of the second sprayfield, meaning the city must find a way to either treat the water or pump it to a large enough body of water.

Hunter said the Sentell representatives he met with last week proposed two options to solve the wastewater dilemma — pumping the treated water 21 miles to the Black Warrior River or building a large sprayfield in Uniontown.

“Right now, we only have two ideas on the table, and we just have to make sure we choose the best one,” Hunter said. “Funding goes hand-in-hand with this decision. We’ve got to be realistic. You might not want a sprayfield, but it might be all you can afford. I personally would prefer to pump the water to the river.”

Hunter said he would not begin pursuing funding for the additional work until the city council approves a plan.

“We won’t know about the funding until we get all of the preliminary work done,” Hunter said. “We’ve got to pick the option that works for us and get all the environmental tests done, and then we’ll know more about how much money we need to find.”

Uniontown resident Ben Eaton, vice president of the Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice, attended Monday’s meeting, hoping to address the council and ask for a complete update on the state of the project and future construction.

Frustrated after he was left off the meeting’s agenda, Eaton said Hunter and the council have not been forthright and engaging with residents on the issues surrounding the wastewater treatment in the city.

“That’s how the issue has been treated,” Eaton said. “Tonight’s meeting was better than before. Before, they never made any attempt to talk about this.”

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