VILONIA, Ark. — A combination of factors is forcing sewer lines to back up in parts of Vilonia, leading to stinky leaks in backyards of the fast-growing Faulkner County city, including one that drains into a nearby stream.
"You can see what all is in the sewer system. I'll put it that way," said Travers Barnard, a homeowner on whether the water in his yard is something more than rain.
Barnard has lived in Vilonia for 60 years; his family even longer. The street is named after his grand-dad, but the sewer pipes under the city haven't held up as well as his family's roots lately.
"It's been going on at least five or six years. Maybe longer. You know my memory ain't as good as I get older," he said.
We spoke with Mayor Preston Scroggins and the sewer department's superintendent, Brandon Betts, though both did not want to go on camera.
Betts explained that with all the ground water and the rain that they get, it "infiltrates" the lines and mixes with the sewer water. It bubbles up out of manholes, and in at least one location, drains into a nearby creek.
"That kind of disturbed me a little," said Barnard. "I used to play in it and fish in it when I was a little kid."
Mayor Scroggins pushed through a tax hike that they say will raise $6.5 million to fix it by finding and plugging those leaks. They also plan to build two new lift stations to help with pumping.
Betts was expecting a new pump delivery on Tuesday.
"Other surrounding systems are experiencing the same problems," said Mayor Scroggins in a statement. "But we do have a plan in place to fix the system."
Barnard says the old pump behind his house often broke down.
"There used to be an alarm. I don't have to listen to it no more," he said, adding he is confident Scroggins and his predecessors in City Hall will get the job done, promising a cleaner future.
"You're talking about kids' futures," Barnard said. "Down the line, where ever that creek goes."