Even before the unusually heavy and frequent rains of this spring and summer began, the condition of the roads in Ellis County had been a source of concern for officials.
The rain and flooding worsened the condition of already damaged roads, washing out bridges and making some roads nearly impassable.
Damages haven’t been limited to the county’s roads, however.
In Waxahachie, the rain has had significant consequences on the city’s streets, creating potholes throughout town.
“Rain, especially rain this heavy, radically increases the number of potholes,” public works director Jeff Chambers said.
The damages to the city’s streets aren’t as bad as those to county roads, Chambers said, saying the “county uses a lower level of pavement” that is mostly chip-seal.
Chip-seal is a cheaper means of paving roads, Chambers said, noting also the county is responsible for far more miles of road than the city.
Waxahachie uses asphalt and concrete for its roads, which creates higher-grade roads that can handle higher traffic loads.
These road types also deal with the rain and flooding better as their surfaces are typically better at preventing water from seeping through the pavement into the roadbed.
Moisture penetrating the roadbed weakens it and, after repeated stresses from vehicles, it eventually breaks down, forming a pothole.
The rains have caused “a lot of deterioration,” Chambers said, adding there has been “a very significant spike in pothole complaints.”
Complaints have come in from throughout the city, with concentrations from Gingerbread Village (located off Brown Street east of Northside Elementary), the Bellvue Addition and University, Virginia, Kirven and Harbin streets.
These areas were already set for road improvement work, Chambers said, saying the original schedule was for the work to happen over the next three years.
That schedule is being moved up, and Chambers anticipates the repairs taken care of during the next two years instead.
In the meantime, the city is sending crews out to repair the streets and potholes now that some dry weather has come along.
The public works department is also responsible for keeping the right of ways and ditches mowed and cleaned out.
Tall grass in some ditches is catching debris and is a potential cause for concern and a definite cause for complaints, but it simply has not been dry enough to mow, Chambers said.
During the storms, the city’s culverts and street drains didn’t experience any significant issues, Chambers said.
The storms did affect the city’s sanitary sewer system, which experienced some infiltration and inflow, director of utilities David Bailey said.
In any sanitary sewer system, there is seepage into pipes or runoff flowing directly into the system, Bailey said, adding, “Our system is not exempt from that.”
Filled with rainwater, the system’s main lift station did get water to the treatment center, but there were incidences of manhole overflows, Bailey said, noting those are a non-compliance with regulations.
The city followed procedure and notified the state within 24 hours of finding the overflows, Bailey said, saying that overall, the system performed well.
The city’s sanitary sewer is designed to allow for a certain amount of infilitration and inflow “because no system is going to be watertight,” he said.
When the rains first came through the area, the ground absorbed a significant amount of the water and only a limited amount entered the system. However, after the extended rains, the swollen creeks and saturated ground forced most of the water to run off or seep into older pipes, filling the sanitary sewer system to capacity and then some.
Older systems built with clay pipe are especially at risk, for while the tile does not deteriorate over time, it is susceptible to cracks and breaks by things such as tree roots, Bailey said.
Some of the system is more than 100 years old, Bailey said, adding that while the city has replaced quite a bit of the larger lines with PVC pipe, there are smaller clay tile lines still in place.
The city has been notified of water damage to some property and there have been some claims turned in, which the city’s insurance will take care of, Bailey said.
With the manhole overflows, the state checked the city’s history against its database and recommended the city join a sanitary sewer overflow outreach initiative, Bailey said, explaining, “Basically, (this recommendation) is a polite way of the state saying to take care of it.”
The city is working on plans to minimize inflows to the system, which helps prevent overflows, Bailey said, saying the initiative calls for a detailed plan to be implemented during the next 10 years.
In addition to working on the plan itself, the city is actively working on flow monitoring to find and correct deficiencies in the system, Bailey said. “By having a good tight inspection on our system, we really minimize the amount of water getting in there.”
Bailey said the process of examining, evaluating and rehabiliting the system is continuous and as long as the city continues to develop and re-develop, the utilities department will have to continue its work to address any problems.
“It’s an ongoing project,” Bailey said.
E-mail Anthony at Anthony.Trojan@waxahachiedailylight.com