Residents of the County House Branch neighborhood see toilet paper around their neighborhood a few times a year.
But the paper isn’t hanging from trees as part of some teenage prank. It’s in the creek that winds through their back yards.
Heavy rain in Columbia sometimes makes a sewer main overflow through a manhole next to County House Branch, dumping raw sewage into the rushing water. After such storms, city crews have to clean up the mess, which includes toilet paper and other trash.
The overflow is more than a simple nuisance — it poses a health risk for residents of the area, especially children who frequently play in the creek bed, said city sewer engineer Steve Hunt.
Butler Stringfield, a County House Branch resident for 10 years, said his son often plays in the creek.
“There are kids down there all the time when it’s warm enough,” he said.
City officials hope to solve the overflow problem, using about $1.5 million in proceeds from an $18.5 million sewer bond issue that appears as Proposition 1 on the Nov. 4 ballot.
The money would be used to put an additional sewer line in the area to relieve the existing system, parts of which are more than 80 years old.
The County House Branch sewer line is the only one in the city that still overflows from time to time. But it’s only one of the problems the city plans to address if voters approve the bond issue.
The city also plans to spend about $480,000 on a new sewer that would relieve pressure on an existing line serving part of the MU campus near University Hospital and clinics. Because the campus is growing, the sewers must grow to ensure adequate service, Hunt said.
“The downstream (sewer line) is almost full,” Hunt said, adding that the life sciences building and a new residence hall on the southeast part of the campus would overload the existing system.
“The line is not going to have capacity,” Hunt said.
The city also plans to spend $750,000 to improve substandard private sewer lines hooked into the city system. Hunt said the city would split the cost of those projects with residents, but repairs will be made only when residents request them.