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Chester flood damage causes costly repairs

July 17, 2013
By STEPHEN HUBA - Special to the Herald-Star , The Herald-Star

CHESTER - The damage from last week's storms is done - now a Chester couple wants to know who's responsible for the repairs.

Don and Cindy Harris of 18 Columbia Ave. took their query to City Council on Monday - five days after flooding left a sink hole in their backyard - but said they came away with unsatisfactory answers.

The Harrises say the repairs are the city's responsibility because the flooding was caused by a damaged city storm sewer that runs under their property. But Mayor Ken Morris, when questioned by the Harrises at Monday's City Council meeting, declined to commit the city and suggested the couple contact the former property owner, Pusateri Excavating of East Liverpool.

Article Photos

SINK HOLE — This sink hole, about 3 feet deep, was created in Don and Cindy Harris’ backyard last week when flooding damaged a pipe. The Harrises believe the pipe is a Chester-owned storm sewer and should be fixed by the city. -- Stephen Huba

"That is not our storm sewer," Morris said.

The Harrises said they left the meeting with no answers to three questions: Who owns the damaged pipe, what's the city's plan for fixing it and what's the city's timetable?

The Harrises have smartphone video footage of what happened last Wednesday, when heavy rains caused flooding throughout Hancock County - from Chester to Weirton. High water can be seen filling their backyard, bubbling up from the ground and flowing over a retaining wall like a waterfall.

The flooding caused a 3-foot sink hole in their backyard, damaged an in-ground sprinkler system and deposited about 3 inches of water and mud in their basement. The couple has owned the home, which sits on the Ohio River adjacent to the Holiday Yacht Club, for a year and a half. The house was built in 1996 by Mike Pusateri Sr., they said.

The Harrises believe the 24-inch drainage pipe was installed by Pusateri for the city. Don Harris said it carries storm water runoff from the city to the Ohio River. Their property also has a French drain system that handles water from the immediate vicinity.

"Isn't the city of Chester responsible for maintaining their storm drains? It's a safety issue," Cindy Harris asked council on Monday.

Morris said Pusateri installed the pipe and tapped into the city's system, making it a private concern.

"We didn't put that storm sewer in. We don't own it," the mayor said.

Video footage of the French drains last Wednesday shows what looks like a normal flow of water. Don Harris is convinced the flooding was the result of the larger storm sewer, which runs about 16 feet below his house.

On Tuesday, Harris said he took it upon himself to check out the pipe. He crawled through and found a break about 100 feet in, he said.

"Right where the sink hole is," he said.

Harris said he plans to hire someone to begin making repairs today, but he wants the city to pay for it.

"We're running out of time," he told council on Monday, "and it's going to rain again, and it's going to damage our home again."

More than anything, Harris is frustrated with what he called the city's lack of response, although Chester Water Department employees spent part of the day Tuesday checking the line with a video camera.

"I'm going to use the system to make them take responsibility for their line," Harris said. "That water did not come from my property. It came under my property from their storm drain."

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