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October 25, 2014

New sources of stormwater overwhelm pipes at Heflin business

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Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014 9:02 am | Updated: 9:06 am, Thu Aug 21, 2014.

The parking lot of the old Buster Miles Chevrolet dealership on Ross Street dips down in the back almost to a bowl shape and during a rain, that bowl runneth over with water, owner Matt Miles said.

The stormwater runoff from other properties in the area has increased over the years, overwhelming the current storm sewer pipes and creating a massive sinkhole in his parking lot, Miles said. Miles moved the Chevrolet store next to his Ford store off Interstate 20 earlier this year and is using the Ross Street property for used car sales and body shop work. But with the parking lot slowly crumbling away, he is limited to the area next to the store, he said.

“I’m afraid to park cars back here,” Miles said.

Miles approached the city of Heflin for help fixing the problem, which will require a new, much larger storm sewer system through his property.

The system in place, which may start on his neighbor’s property, was fine before other construction along the street added to the runoff, Miles said. An engineering survey he had done by Bailey Engineering in Anniston noted that just two recent projects uphill from his store, the Fred’s store built in 2006 and the Heflin United Methodist Church Family Life Center built in 2010, transformed nearly three acres of dense undergrowth capable of absorbing water into hard surfaces that can’t absorb water.

The additional water just from those two properties would require a 24 inch storm sewer pipe, the report concluded.

Miles said he knows that he’s responsible for taking care of his property. But he questions what he should do about the additional water rushing through his property because of other people’s construction.

“I think it’s the city’s responsibility,” Miles said. “Somebody’s got to make the rules.”

Heflin doesn’t have a stormwater management plan and is not required to because of its size, said City Clerk Shane Smith. There is a subdivision ordinance that deals with drainage and water runoff, but that is for residential construction, Smith noted.

According to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s website, the state requires communities with a population of 10,000 or more or a population density of 1,000 people per square mile, to develop a stormwater management plan that would include public education, illicit discharge elimination, pollution prevention, construction site runoff control and post construction runoff management. Heflin, with its population of 3,509, is well under the population requirement.

Cleburne County Administrator Steve Swafford said the county also doesn’t have a stormwater management plan, but if it undertakes a construction project, it follows runoff regulations and obtains permits through ADEM.

Smith said the city also obtains permits through ADEM on any of its construction projects. Property owners in the city may also have that requirement, but the city doesn’t check to make sure they have done that, he said.

Smith said this is the first time this administration has had a complaint about storm sewers. He has requested that other small cities in the state send him their stormwater management plans if they have them. However, he said a plan isn’t something the city could put together in a few days or model after another city’s plan. It would require having experts come to Heflin to design one, he said.

Smith said the city is consulting with engineers about Miles’ problem and with the League of Municipalities to see if it can even do any work on private property, such as Miles parking lot.

“We’re trying to figure out what we need to do, what is our responsibility,” Smith said.

Staff Writer Laura Camper 256-463-2872 in Heflin, 256-235-3545 in Anniston. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.

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