Warren’s water woes

Nearly a dozen residents living in the former Star Allotment on Warren’s southwest side demanded that the city address both storm and sanitary backups that have plagued their homes as a result of unusually heavy rainfalls earlier this year.

“During one of the flooding days in July, we had 4 to 6 feet of storm water and some sanitary sewer water in our basements,” Pam Bumgardner said Wednesday in City Council chambers during a meeting called by Councilman Eddie Colbert, D-7th Ward.

“A week later, there was a lighter rain and we received 4 to 8 inches of water. Seven to eight days later, another rain, and we had another 4 to 8 inches of water.”

Another big rain caused them to have 2 to 4 feet of water in their basements, she said.

Bumgardner, who led the discussion for those living in the area, said, “We have been living and breathing bleach in our homes. I cannot run home to look to see if I got water in my basement every time it rains.”

Thomas Bumgardner said because of the number of claims, their homeowner’s insurance no longer will replace electronic equipment damaged due to flooding in their basement.

Streets with homes affected by water coming into their basements include Elvina, Elm, Florine and South.

Thomas Angelo, director of the city’s Water Pollution Control department, told the residents that the grounds around their homes became oversaturated by not only the amount of rain but also by the intensity of the rains that have fallen so far this year.

He described 2013 as having some of the heaviest single-day rainfall events seen in the area since 2003.

As a result of similar heavy rainfalls in 2003 , Angelo said his department identified at least seven areas that needed significant work on the storm and / or sanitary sewer systems. Work on some of the identified projects have been completed, some are in the process, and some identified projects have not been started.

The city has been working to identify and obtain funding for these projects that will allow it to remain in budget without raising rates on a smaller population of both businesses and residents in the city.

Since 2003, the city’s population of the city has declined and there have been several large companies that moved out of the city. As an enterprise fund, the sanitary sewer department’s budget is based on its customer use.

Since this summer’s storms, Angelo described at least two additional areas which have been identified by residents as having significant sewer problems.

Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold, D-6th Ward, met earlier this summer with 35 to 40 of her constituents and Angelo and other city officials.

“They told us what their experiences were and what they believe their problems were,” Angelo said. “We now have to identify what the source and the cause of the backups.”

Part of the problem the department is facing in determining what is attributing to the problems in the Star allotment area is it was annexed into the city from Leavittsburg, so the city does not have maps detailing exactly where the sewers are located.

In addition, some of the sewers in the area are crumbling.

“We did a smoke test of the sewers in the area and it was like London fog,” Angelo said. “Smoke was coming up everywhere, both from lines under public and private properties.”

When questioned why the city could not address that immediate concern, Angelo explained where the smoke was coming up on private property it is the property owners’ responsibility to make necessary repairs.

Angelo emphasized that his department has been working in the area. It has attempted to send cameras down the storm water sewer pipes in the area to record what obstructions or broken pipes that may be in the sewers, but some of the pipes are smaller around than the camera size.

“We have a push camera available, but we can only push it about 300 feet before having to pull it out and find a new entrances,” he said.

Colbert said he is less concerned with finding blame for the sewer system getting into its current condition than finding out how and when the problems can be fixed.

Former City Councilwoman Sue Hartman, who lives in the area, believes both the sanitary and sewer lines in the area are bad, needing either extensive repairs or replaced.

“When the city annexed this area, residents were promised new sewers,” Hartman said. “Residents have been paying the same prices for sewers that sometimes are too small as other city residents whose sewers are the correct size. “

Due to the fact that residents have experienced an increase in the number of sanitary sewer backups flooding their basements, Mayor Doug Franklin asked Angelo to place emphasis on finding the cause and solving the problem.

“The sanitary sewer backups creates a potential health issue and that makes it different from other neighborhoods,” Franklin said.

Angelo is preparing a full sanitary sewer program to council that will outline each of the major wastewater and sewer issues facing the city, provide recommendations on how to resolve them, estimated costs, as well as possible state and federal funding sources.

He suggested the Star Allotment area may need replacements of both their sanitary and sewer lines, which will be expensive.

“I want to present this program to the council by the end of the year,” Angelo said. “It will be up to them to determine what to do with the information.”