Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality has become so concerned about Charlottesville's repeated sewage overflow problems that it is demanding the city do something about it right away.

The problem is: any fix will cost taxpayers millions of dollars and while some steps are being made, a solution is still well out of reach.

The DEQ says since 2008 Charlottesville's waste system has back-up and dumped sewage into creeks and streams at least 40 times.  Heavy rain forcing parts of the city's sewer system to overflow is becoming an all too common occurrence in Charlottesville and the state says it has to stop.

A YouTube video from January, taken by someone obviously concerned about the stinky and dangerous mess, captured a backed-up manhole spewing raw sewage, tampons and other things into Lodge Creek near Observatory Hill.    

"Because of the cracks in the pipe, the rain water gets into the pipe and we have overflows," said Judy Mueller with Charlottesville Public Works.

Those overflows have now caught the attention of the DEQ. The agency has now sent a warning letter to the city citing 40 violations between July 2008 and March 2010.

"We went and met with DEQ after the letters, explained to them what our plan was, the testing that we had done, and they're at this point pleased," said Mueller.

Charlottesville City Council is dumping $28 million into the aging infrastructure. Some of the sewer pipes are more than 60 years old. Over the next five years the public works department will rehab or replace the Meadowcreek and Stadium Road lines.

"That's something that the city is putting a lot of money into," said city Councilor David Brown. "We're working aggressively on it."

But the long-term solution will not come quick. The five-year plan is just a drop in the bucket compared to what will have to be done.

"We're trying to prioritize and do the areas where we know we have the worst problems first," said Mueller.

Charlottesville is not the only one facing sewer problems. Albemarle County is also facing similar aging infrastructure issues which will also need to be addressed.

Reported by Henry Graff
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