Etowah County inmates create sewer backup, but their plan might - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Etowah County inmates create sewer backup, but their plan might backfire

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ETOWAH COUNTY - AL - Etowah County leaders are getting creative to solve a plumbing problem.  Inmates in the Detention Center caused sewer blockage by flushing all types of items down the toilets. County leaders figured out a way to not only make it stop, but also save money for taxpayers.  

With around 900 inmates, it's one of the largest jails in the state.

"It's a small city within itself," Chief Deputy Michael Barton said. "Small issues become big issues when you have a lot of people."

Clothes, bed sheets, slippers, and plastics are all going down the drain.

 "It cannot be ground through the system then it overflows," Patrick Simms, Etowah County CEO said.

The total cost for flushing at the jail - around $113,000.  Chief Deputy Michael Barton gave us a jail tour.  

"Those that cause problems, they continue to cause problems and this is one way they can do that," Barton said.

But Etowah County leaders decided to make some lemonade out of those lemons. Here's the plan: 

"Limit the number of flushes allowed by some type of electronic means that you flush once in five minutes and you can't flush anymore," Simms said.

Limiting inmates  - not only reduces the amount they can flush, but also saves the county tax payers a big chunk of change: around $40-50,000 every year. Inmates are now using paper bags in the commissary and the county is considering a system that re-uses the water from washing machines.

"We're now able to implement new technology that exists now that may not have existed 20 years ago when this facility was built," Barton said. "As a result now, we can save water, and at the end of the day save money and go a little more green."

County leaders say the problem is something every jail has faced. In Walker County, a similar problem has led to safety and health hazards. The problem was solved by taking away items from inmates - until they stopped putting them down the drain.
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