Sept. 10, 2012 — Jail inmates flushing their county-owned jumpsuits down the toilet is nothing new, according to Rowan County Jailer Don Hall.
Hall recently got a call from Chuck Davis of the Morehead Utility Plant Board (MUPB).
“They were having some orange material-type stuff clogging their pumps and he was wondering if it could have come from the jail,” Hall said. “Of course, we issue orange jumpsuits so that’s where the story began.”
Inmates have a history of tearing up mattresses, too, and flushing pieces down the commode.
The problem usually stops at the jail. Toilets will get clogged, causing the pipes to stop up and the cells to flood. But sometimes the material gets out of the jail’s sewer.
Hall said he is not sure exactly why inmates behave this way but the Rowan County Detention Center is not the only jail to have such an issue.
Mike Nickell, MUPB general manager, says once materials are flushed, they go into the sewer system and on to the main pump station which is located near Brady Curve off US 60 west.
“That’s the one we’re getting ready to move out of,” Nickell said. “There’s a large pump station there and it has screens. It’s set up to screen out large debris. We see all kinds of stuff come through there, such as dogs, small deer, and other animals. I don’t know how they get in there.”
Some of the flushed items pass through the screen and get tangled up in the MUPB’s pump system, Nickell said.
Impellers push water through the screen. When jumpsuits and other material gets tangled up inside the pumps, the impellers have to be manually shut down.
“When it gets major like that, say three and four times a year, it’s very costly,” Nickell said.
The last such incident cost MUPB about $5,000, he said.
Nickell recently met with the jailer to devise a solution. He asked Hall to call him the next time there’s a blockage because the MUPB is better trained on fixing the problem.
Nickell said he appreciates the jail trying to help but sometimes employees don’t get all the debris which then floats downstream and gets into the main screen.
“Sometimes this stuff gets by us without stopping up,” Hall said. “I’ve always said if a small inmate could hold his breath he could flush himself down and escape that way because when you flush the toilets, they’ll take about anything down.”
The two agencies agreed also to create a system using barbed wire that hangs in the sewer manhole. When cloth material comes through, the idea is for it to get hung on the barbed wire.
Nickell said this is a temporary solution but for now, it beats buying new pumps that cost anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000.
Nicole Sturgill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 784-4116.