Problem catches officials off guard

EAST PALESTINE – At least two members of council say they only recently learned of an ongoing sewer problem in the village through a Facebook post.

Alan Cohen and Endia Wisser said during a finance committee meeting Monday they weren’t aware of the sewer problems in the West High Street area until they saw comments on Facebook.

After the meeting Cohen explained it was actually former village solicitor Brad Allison who had commented on his personal Facebook page, asking if the village intended to correct the sewer problem before paving the street there.

The comment was posted on Cohen’s page following the May council meeting. The street paving was completed last week.

Cohen said he did speak with Village Manager Pete Monteleone and Water and Wastewater Superintendent John Jurjavcic about the problem, and later said it would have been nearly impossible for the problem to have been corrected before the summer paving program.

According to estimates provided to him by Jurjavcic, about 100 feet of the eight-inch line would need to be replaced, and that would result in at least a portion, if not all, of the street being closed to traffic during that time.

Jurjavcic also said during the meeting he wasn’t aware there was an issue there recently, although there has been in the past.

“We didn’t hear anything for a long time so we wasn’t aware there was a problem, then all of a sudden on Facebook, everybody is having a problem,” he said.

He said correcting the problem – caused by a “belly” in the sewer line – would cost around $20,000.

A belly is when the sewage passing through the line becomes heavier than the ground supporting the line, resulting in the line sagging into the ground, creating a pool of blockage.

A temporary fix is to jet the line with high pressure water, he said.

Typically, the department jets lines in about six places throughout town every so often, but the West High Street line has not been jetted lately because no one complained about the problem to the department, he added.

“You never let us know,” he said to Bonnie Davis, who lives on West High Street, and was at the meeting.

Davis said the sewer has backed into the basement of her home since at least 2006. She admitted she has not been as vocal about the problem as she could have been and that the leaked sewage is taken care of by the sump pump she and her husband own.

She also said at least four or five other homes on that street have been affected.

Councilman Fran Figley and Finance Director Traci Thompson also said they were not aware of the problem until recently.

Cohen brought the matter to attention during the finance committee meeting to see if any money was available to correct the problem.

Thompson and Jurjavcic said more detailed cost estimates would be needed to see exactly how much is needed, and from there some money could be set aside in next year’s budget.