By LINDA HARRIS
STEUBENVILLE - County officials are trying to figure out why sewer gases are suddenly causing problems in the Bloomingdale area.
At Thursday's commissioners' meeting, resident Robert J. Becker told commissioners via letter that the gases continue to be a problem, even though the county sewer department installed vented manhole covers last week, "which solved nothing because the flow from the pump station ... is so tremendous that it creates a vacuum in my household sewers and pulls water out of the traps, which then allows sewer gas to enter..."
Becker, a resident of county Road 22A, said it's been a problem for the past five weeks. Another homeowner, Lois Ross, also voiced concern, telling commissioners she'd had her trap tested after a smoke test suggested it was cracked and was told definitively that "it's not defective."
"I am very concerned that my home is in danger," Becker said, adding that "... I also am aware of several other homes in this project that have the same problem. I understand that some have no cleanout to give temporary relief, and that is dangerous. Sewer gas is explosive and can be deadly if a person is exposed for an extended (period) of time."
Becker said to relieve pressure he's "had to keep my 6-inch outside cleanout open and restrict the opening from my home to 4-inches to relieve the vacuum created by the tremendous flow when the pressure line from the Highland Pump Station is pumping."
He recommended commissioners consider modifying manholes into "drop manholes" that would cause an influx of air into the stream, breaking the vacuum within the outlet pipe. He also questioned the sizing of inlet and outlet pipes, pointing out that when a pressurized inlet is being used "the outlet should be much larger."
"If we're having to put vented lids to correct it, why wasn't it designed that way?" asked Commissioner Tom Gentile, pointing out they need to be sure "we're not facing design issues."
"Test the system, see if there's a problem somewhere," he added.
Commissioner Dave Maple called for a written report from the system's designers, MS Consultants.
"I want MS to tell us if they believe the design is flawed and if it is, what corrective action should be taken," Maple said. "Let's quit bouncing around this thing and get through it."
"Whatever the problem is, it can be fixed," Commissioner Thomas Graham added.
Commissioners, meanwhile, were told purchasing a courtesy car for pilots flying into the Jefferson County Airpark carries significant risk.
The county's insurance consultant, Debbie Hukill of Oklok Criss & Associates, said a vehicle could be covered for liability, "but the people in it and the person driving would not be covered for workers' compensation."
"Responsibility always goes back to the owner of the vehicle," she said. "It's like a loaded gun .... if you give someone your vehicle, you're giving them your checking account, your savings account and your house."
The issue came to a head this week when a county worker was asked to sign a purchase order for a courtesy car and refused pending authorization from the commissioners. They have since been told that a member of the airport authority had made a verbal commitment to purchase the vehicle for use by visiting pilots.
Maple pointed out a courtesy car is "not just a nicety, it's to increase traffic, increase development." Having a car at their disposal would allow pilots to leave the terminal building to purchase food and necessities while their passengers conduct business in the area.
"Ultimately, it's to grow the airport," he said.
Graham said they'd need the airport board to draft very specific guidelines as to how and when the car would be used.
"No one is saying we can't cover this," Hukill added. "It's 'do we want to.'"
Commissioners also voiced concern with unlicensed junkyards and dumping grounds throughout the county and said they need to work with the sheriff's department, prosecutor's office and township trustees to ensure regulations are enforced.
"It's a big problem that doesn't get corrected because it falls through the cracks," Gentile said, adding that they need to "find out how we can put teeth" into enforcing property regulations.
"Everybody needs to know their role," Maple said. "More importantly, we need code enforcement."
Submitting bids for the Bergholz and East Springfield tank rehabilitation projects were:
- D&M Painting Corp., Washington, Pa., bid of $606,250, with three alternates: Bergholz mixing system, $39,000; East Springfield mixing system, $52,400; and THM removal from East Springfield, $193,315.
- LC United Painting, Sterling Heights, Mich., bid of $810,892, no alternates.
- L&T Painting, Clinton Township, Mich., bid of $833,664, with alternates: Bergholz mixing system, $14,500; East Springfield mixing system, $28,500; and THM removal from East Springfield, $185,000.
- Horizon Brothers Painting, Philadelphia, bid of $1,359,883.64, with alternates: Bergholz mixing system, $78,000; East Springfield mixing system, $78,000; and THM removal from East Springfield, $216,425.25.
- A1 Industrial Painting, Campbell, bid of $695,888, with alternates: Bergholz mixing system, $33,297; East Springfield mixing system, $54,733; and THM removal from East Springfield, no bid.
The work, bid as a single project, involves significant structural work, particularly the Bergholz tank. The three alternates, which would improve water quality, were added as options in the event funding became available. All would improve water quality and, in the case of the THM removal, keep the system "ahead of the game" in terms of environmental regulations, according to officials.
Contracts for gas and diesel fuel were approved, with Riley Petroleum Products, Belmont/Carson Petroleum Corp. and Jefferson Landmark, Inc.
After meeting in executive session, commissioners promoted Mike Eroshevich to assistant director of the water-sewer department at an hourly rate of $26.12. Eroshevich previously served as operations superintendent. His promotion takes effect Monday.
Commissioners also met behind closed doors to discuss personnel matters with Juvenile Judge Samuel Kerr, Sheriff Fred Abdalla and contract negotiations with animal shelter employees.