Cafeteria workers at Tracy City Elementary School walk through sewage each day to get to the dumpster. During rainy weather, the problem is worse, and even entering the back cafeteria door becomes a problem. The smell is unbearable.
Last week, Grundy County Herald was alerted to the problem by Grundy County School Board member Chris Snyder who says he has repeatedly voiced his concerns to the board, head of maintenance Jeff Sholey, and Director of Schools Jessie Kinsey. Snyder says he thinks the sewage is both a health and safety violation that should have been fixed over two years ago.
“We pay $400 a month to have the sewer pumped,” said Snyder. “With the money spent on pumping the sewer, which has not been effective in solving the problem, a new system could have been installed.”
Snyder told the Herald that special enzymes were purchased for the sewer system and they worked for several years. But, the problem has returned. He says he has been told by Sholey that the problem arises from grease dumped by the cafeteria workers. But, Snyder doesn’t buy that excuse.
“The pumps are grease traps. There is a three stage system that should work to filter out the grease,” explained Snyder. “The traps were installed in 1979. We were frying foods then. Now, we bake and steam food. We are using less grease than 1979, but the problem is worse and being blamed on grease?”
Snyder explained that the three step process the sewer system uses first filters out the grease from the water. The second stage filters more grease from the water. Finally, the remaining water is filtered. But, somewhere during the three-stage process, there is a breakdown.
Kinsey replied to a request for information from the Herald, and issued the following statement:
“Maintenance was made aware of this problem this past Friday, and has been working since to address the concerns of the smell at TCES. Maintenance has determined it is not a septic or sewer problem, but rather a grease trap line that is clogging.
“Although the problem is still not fully resolved at TCES, the maintenance and cafeteria workers have taken the following measures to adequately correct the issue including consultation with a licensed sewer authority, running a camera all the way through the sewer lines to the city manhole for inspection (the line appears to be clear), placing enzymes in the grease trap to assist with dissolving, and pumping the tank. In fact, the tank was pumped this past weekend, which can cause the smell to intensify temporarily.
“We will continue to work to find solutions until the problem is fully corrected,” concluded Kinsey.
Snyder says the problem is faced by more than one school in the system. He said that North Elementary School is also having issues with their sewage backing up.