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Steelton Sewage Issues Dominate Council Meeting

July 11, 2018
BY ED PARSONS - Staff Writer ( , Wetzel Chronicle

Several New Martinsville residents appeared before New Martinsville City Council on July 2 to express concerns with an ongoing sewage problem in their East Thistle Drive area of the Steelton section of the city.

Ed Knowlton addressed council on behalf of the contingent. Knowlton said the problem has been occurring for 35 years or longer, but it has been an on and off, hit and miss type of problem. According to Knowlton, there are only eight homes affected, and that is the puzzling problem.

"We have fought this for years, all the way back to when Jake Forbes was living; it has now become more frequent, and it's got to stop," said Knowlton. He handed council members and the mayor copies of a picture of his basement which showed the sewage in his basement. "We have insurance to cover this, but we still suffered loss. Our deductible is $500. Plus we lost some personal items, like clothes and things."

He said they had been to council before, and nothing really changes. "We haven't filed a lawsuit or contacted the state or any of that; we just want to get some help. It's got to stop."

The residents said every once in a while, the city will smoke test to make sure people aren't running storm water into the sewage, but when that happens, they feel people remove the storm water from the sewage. Knowlton said his damage included carpet, paneling and de-sanitizing. The costs for Panhandle Cleaning & Restoration to perform the work will be between $10,000 to $12,000. He said he is one of the lucky ones who has insurance.

Mayor Steve Bohrer told the group he would ask Pat Durant, of the water and sewage department, and Gary Willey, of the street department, to review the issue to see what may need done to correct the situation. Mayor Bohrer said he would do everything he can to get to the bottom of the problem.

"We will get it taken care of, and if not, I don't need to be here."

John McCulley, of Paducah Drive, said he was also experiencing some of the same problems. He said it was not just happening on East Thistle. He mentioned the city had completed a sewer project in his neighbor hood, in 2004, which was needed to help people on Paducah Drive.

"They asked if they could lay the line through my yard, and I gave them permission. They went about 14 feet or so to bury the line. I had never experienced any problems until after the line was put in. We did get water run-off, and some of my neighbors did as well, but this last time we had sewer water shooting 12 inches to 18 inches high. There was feces and a horrible smell," he said. " I got an estimate for cleanup of $1,800. My furnace and hot water tank were both damaged. I have lived there for 28 years and everytime we go away or on vacation, we have to worry about it. We check the weather and call back to make sure what's happening."

McCulley said no one should have to live like that. City councilman Steve Pallisco said he agreed that no one should have to worry or live like that. He mentioned this is first time on council, as chairman of the street department and storm sewers committee. "I'll be getting with Pat and Gary, and we will go up there and see what we can find out. I'll do my best to find the solution," he said.

Several of the residents expressed concern that there could be infectious waste from the hospital entering their homes through the sewer backups. They were worried about sickness and disease.

One resident complained this is the third time she has had Panhandle Cleaning at her home. She said she lives on the corner of Greenbriar and Thistle, and this time she had about three inches of sewage. She described the scene as looking like a war zone. Although her family has insurance, she said they still have to pay a $1,000 deductible.

The Richmonds, who live on Allen Street, said they are experiencing a large sink hole where a line runs through their yard. They also are getting some sewage and water in their basement. They said they have no insurance and have not had the area sanitized.

Bill King, of East Thistle, said he has lived in the area since 1985 and had experienced sewage issues at his home four times, but this last instance was the worst. Ed Knowlton continued to ask council to find out why only eight homes are affected. It was mentioned the system may now be too small and not able to handle all the sewage, plus the storm water that may be running into it. Mayor Bohrer told the contingent he would see that the matter is addressed. Councilwoman Iris Isaacs said she would do everything she could as councilperson to help the residents, but she mentioned the city has limited funds and everything could be very expensive, and the city will have to find ways to pay for it.

Councilman Pallisco echoed her statements and added the city may have to try and get some grant money.

Unrelated to the sewage problem, a resident of Central Street approached council with a complaint about his neighbor's yard. The resident described the yard as a mess, full of junk, garbage, and rats. He said the smell is horrible, and the area is filled with flies and bugs. The resident said he would like to have the city look at the property and do something about it. He said it is a disgrace, and the smell is unbearable.

Councilman Jeff Gieseke said he has seen the property, and the city needs to take action. Mayor Bohrer confirmed the city would take care of the matter.

In an unrelated matter, the council spoke about the Back Home Appalachian Arts & Music Festival, and Councilman Joel Potts said he felt the electric department did a great job providing electric for the event. He asked Electric Department Superintendent David White to give an update on what the city did. White said the department had to add some electric ports, and his workers did an excellent job working the event, even giving up some of their personal time to make sure it all ran smoothly. He praised his department and several others for their hard work.

Councilman Gieseke thanked Chief Cecil and his police department for the security work they did during the festival. He said there were no arrests related to the festival, although the police did arrest a few people who had warrants outstanding.

Sandy Hunt said she wanted to make it known that the Wetzel County Convention and Visitors Bureau paid the city electric department for the upgrades to the electric. She said she just wanted to clarify that, so the residents didn't think their money was spent on the festival. White agreed, and he thanked her for making the clarification.

With no new business or old business, the mayor entertained a motion to adjourn which passed unanimously.



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