Howland residents feel pain of Niles water issues


Howland Community News

Andrew Buettner said his trouble with the Niles Water Department began four months ago.

Although he resides on Ravenwood Drive in Howland Township, his water service is provided by Niles, and so after a waterline break started filling his yard with water, he called the Niles Water Department.

And then he waited. A utility company worker came out and marked the lines. Water continued to flood the lawn, and still several weeks passed until a crew arrived and started work.

Work finally began, but he said it abruptly ended when workers struck utility lines.

All the while, the leak was soaking his lawn, making it impossible to cut his grass, Buettner said, noting that he wore out his weed trimmer using it to cut the entire lawn. Soon he received a Howland Township zoning violation stemming from high grass.

Buettner informed the zoning inspector of the situation, and the township did not pursue fines, dropping the issue, said Peter Ross, Howland zoning administrator.

Buettner took his complaints July 19 to Niles City Council, because after months, a 10-foot long, half-dug hole exposing damaged utility lines still remains on his lawn. More than 20 flags marking utility line locations dart the yard, coupled with orange cones draped with caution tape.

“What are you waiting for?” Council President Robert Marino asked the city service director after Buettner described the ordeal.

Service Director Edward Stredney said it has been difficult to coordinate with utility companies on the repair because the waterlines are buried beneath other utilities. They would prefer to reroute the water line, because it is difficult to coordinate the repairs among all the entities involved, Stredney said.

Buettner said the problem has gotten so bad that one of his neighbors has had to switch telephone providers because of damage to the line.

Marino directed Stredney to give Buettner a solid, committed date for when the problem will be fixed, but Buettner didnát seem to hold out much hope, noting that he has received unfulfilled promises before.

“Who is paying for all that water? I wonder how many gallons a minute are pouring out into the street?ã Buettner said.

Issues with the waterlines on Ravenwood aren’t limited to Buettner’s experience.

“Weáre ä me and the neighbors — we are all just sick and tired of this,” Buettner said. “We’ve always had water issues here ä super high pressure, super low pressure. The water goes out a lot. It is corrosive water. We have to use filters, and they get filthy. I’ve had to replace several commodes. The average life for everything attached up to the water, before I put the filter in, was about two years. It’ll turn to garbage whether it’s a commode or a faucet or a sink.ã

Tom Hagyari, a neighbor of Buettner, agreed that waterlines breaks are frequent in the area, and the pipes are so old they need a permanent fix, not sleeves.

“When they crank down the sleeve, the pipe breaks again,” Buettner said.

And when Hagyari had problems, he said the crew didn’t come to fix it until he placed a call to a local elected official, he said.

“I shouldn’t have to do that,” Hagyari said.

Further, he complained about poor patch jobs that creating divets in the road.

“We’re in Howland, we aren’t in Niles. So it seems like they just don’t care,” Buettner said.

Stredney said the city is working on grants to replace water lines in areas that need it most.

Barry Steffey Sr. of Ravenwood Drive also has bumped heads with Stredney.

His Ravenwood Drive property has had problems since Easter, he said.

It took six weeks before a crew came out to the property. They dug up the leaky pipe, made their fix and left. They later filled the hole with dirt and large rocks. The unsightly mess was worsened when Steffey Sr. said he struck a rock with his lawn mower last week, leading to a $359 repair.

When he called Stredney to see if the city would cover the repair bill, Stredney responded that the city would fight that and refer it to the law department, Steffey said.

Stredney didn’t deny it.

The crew uses the fill dirt it dug up, Stredney said.

“No,” Steffey Sr. said, noting that workers hauled away the original dirt and brought back river rocks.

The administration is looking at how to resolve the issues, Stredney said.

Steffey Sr. is the father of Niles 4th Ward Councilman Barry Steffey Jr.