Winchester residents battle waste water in yards and drainage ditches
Anyone who has ever been to the Drew County community of Winchester when it’s warm has likely noticed people fishing in Coon Bayou, which runs through the middle of town. But, what most don’t realize, unless you’ve taken a much closer look, is that Coon Bayou is contaminated with waste water sewage.
Mayor General Alexander said every ditch in town has sewage running into them from the houses nearby. These ditches and canals all connect to Coon Bayou.
“That one house on the other side of the tracks dumps right into Coon Bayou,” Alexander said. “It has a septic tank but it still dumps into the water (that runs right next to it).”
Alexander said he’s been working to do something about the sewage problem in the town since taking office in January 2011.
He said most of the homes in Winchester have septic systems, but those septic systems drain into nearby ditches because they are too full or they have not been properly maintained.
He stressed, "It’s not just some of the homes in the town, it’s all of them; 88 to be exact.
“The people don’t want to live near all this sewage, but it’s all we have,” Alexander stated. “The people of this town want an adequate sewer system.”
Alexander said the previous mayor told the residents that the houses can be “grandfathered in” to be excluded from the current laws pertaining to sewage and septic systems, meaning that the houses pre-date the laws therefore the laws cannot be enforced on those homes.
He said because of this “grandfather system” the former mayor refused to even discuss getting a sewer system for the town.
Alexander said his resident’s can’t get government assistance with housing loans because of the sewer problem.
“I have one resident that wants to tear his house down and rebuild but he can’t get a loan because we don’t have a sewer,” he explained.
Drew County Judge Robert Akin knew Winchester had a problem before he was ever elected into office.
“I was campaigning and I saw the sewage in the ditches. I knew it wasn’t right,” Akin said. “That’s when I started working on getting this town a sewer system and I wasn’t even elected yet.”
Akin said he’s going to do everything in his power to make sure Winchester has a sewer system installed.
“The first number we got was $1.4 million, but another person from Pine Bluff said we needed twice that amount to get started,” Alexander said.
Akin and Alexander are on a mission for nearly $3 million in grants to fund the sewer project.
“That’s the whole reason I went to Washington in March,” Akin said.
Alexander said the sewer system can’t come soon enough.
“The people of this town want to be able to sit in their yards and enjoy fresh air,” he said. “We can’t do that now because of the smell. It smells so bad especially when the sun comes out. It really smells bad.”