The sewer line that serves the 1960s-era Puyallup City Jail clogged up once in December and again earlier this month, and it temporarily displaced inmates from their cells.
Lt. Ed Shannon, the supervisor of the city jail, said the sewer backups occurred both on Dec. 24, 2012, and Feb. 17. The source was linked to a cell toilet, Shannon said.
“We think we identified two prisoners in one particular cell that were trying to disrupt the sewer line,” Shannon said. “We mopped everything up very quickly and used a viral bacterial on the floor.”
Inmates were displaced to other quarters, Shannon said, and there were other toilets available in the booking room and other common areas available to be used.
A letter to the Herald dated Jan. 23 from an inmate at the time contained new information about the first incident in December.
Thomas Hobart, now since released, claimed that “the jail flooded with about one inch of dirty sewer water” on Christmas Eve. He alleged that inmates walked around in the sewer water and 10 became sick.
“They should have moved us out of the jail,” Hobart wrote in the letter. “They should have had a cleaning crew come clean the jail.”
Those who cleaned the mess were inmate trustees who volunteered to work maintenance in the jail, Shannon said. In return for their efforts, the inmates receive credits toward fines they owe.
Shannon said it took a few hours from the point of discovery to the completion of the cleanup.
Temporary outhouses were ordered but never used, Shannon said. Flow Hawk arrived to inspect the clog, and a camera sent down the toilet discovered spoons, cellophane wrapper and linens, Shannon added.
“We suspect that Hobart was one of the inmates clogging the toilet,” Shannon said. “His particular cell had the problem.”
Several weeks later, Michelle Santisteven called the Herald and reported her boyfriend, also an inmate at the city jail, said there was a sewer backup incident Feb. 17.
Shannon said Hobart was released three days later.
Shannnon, the jail supervisor for 15 of his 29 years in the department, said it’s a full-time job to monitor inmates’ activity.
“If you get two or three that are there, and they are determined to cause a disturbance, they do,” Shannon said. “They will do that type of stuff to try to disrupt the operation (of the jail).”
Shannon denied Hobart’s claim that 10 inmates became sick. No one was adversely affected by the backup, he said. Officers also suspect an inmate or inmates were responsible for the toilets clogging on Feb. 17.
Shannon said the toilets are fully functional, but that they don’t drain as well as they could.
“If you make an effort (to clog), it could happen,” he said. “Under normal circumstances, it isn’t a problem.”Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.