Residents Clean Up the Sludge

WHEELING – A few Mount de Chantal road residents are dealing with a messy situation after a mixture of stormwater and sewage shot out of their basement drains and toilets Wednesday morning.

Crystal Jozwick, daughter of Tom and Barb Leonard of Mount de Chantal Road, said the sludge left behind smells like a mixture of sewage and kerosene.

“It was like a geyser – 3 feet high,” Jozwick said of the liquid that escaped the drains in the floor, and also came out of the toilet about a foot high.

The mess occurred at about 8 a.m. Wednesday during a thunderstorm that caused flash flooding and road closures throughout the region.

Jozwick said it wasn’t the first time the Leonards have had to deal with sewage in their basement. About two years ago the same scenario occurred. At that time Jozwick said the city took responsibility and hired a company to clean up the sludge.

“Every time there’s a hard, fast rain it comes up through the sewers. It isn’t just water. The water is dark brown with feces … I realize the problem is due to flooding, but there’s a problem with the sewer lines and the city won’t correct it. Since they moved here in 2000, this has been the eighth or ninth time. Sometimes they’re the only house affected,” Jozwick said.

Jozwick said her parents cannot afford to hire a cleaning company, so it will be up to them and her to clean it up. Their house insurance company will not cover the cost of cleanup. They also do not have flood insurance because they are not in a flood plain, she added.

“They’re both 75 years old – they should not be sludging through the basement. It smells like kerosene. It’s definitely hazardous,” she said. “The city needs to address this or assume responsibility. … They need to fix the sewer and take care of the private residences.”

Wheeling Public Works Director Russell Jebbia said it has been more than two years since the sanitary and storm sewer lines were separated in that area.

He said it was a $960,000 project. However, this particular storm simply overwhelmed the system, and not having all the lines separated yet in the city also does not help.

“The main interceptor trunk line backed up. … An act of God is what we call it,” Jebbia said, adding the Leonards’ home is one the closet to the interceptor line.

“There was too much rainfall in too short a time,” Jebbia said. “We had manholes blowing on National Road and Dimmeydale.”

He said when the city’s insurance paid to have the Leonards’ home cleaned up a couple years ago, it was because there was a problem with one of the city’s lines.

“It was a different situation back then. … They used to get water a lot more often,” Jebbia said.

The Leonards weren’t the only ones cleaning up Wednesday. People living at two neighboring homes on Mount de Chantal Road also were dealing with a mess.

“It keeps happening. … The city needs to do something,” said Martin Schultz, son of Carlene and Martin Schultz of Mount de Chantal Road.

Schultz, who lives in Maryland, was in town visiting and was helping with the cleanup along with his brother John Schultz of Wheeling. Next door, James McAlpine was helping his mother clean up also.

More than three inches of rain fell during the night and early morning Wednesday, resulting in flooding across the area.

One of the heaviest hit areas in Wheeling was National Road and Bethany Pike in the Woodsdale area, where Long Run overran its banks behind Hardee’s restaurant and spilled over into the restaurant and across the street into the CVS parking lot. The deluge of creek water combined with overflowing storm drains produced several feet of water on National Road.

Wheeling police shut down the road as several motorists attempted to drive through the standing water. Some drivers experienced water flowing into the doors of their vehicles as they drove through the water.

Meanwhile, Long Run running along Bethany Pike came to within inches of overflowing onto the road after twigs and other debris clogged a storm water culvert near the entrance of the C3 Church. Mud and water covered one lane of Bethany Pike across from Nicky’s Garden Center.

Lou Vargo, Wheeling-Ohio County Emergency Management Agency director, said he believed the storm drains were the cause of the National Road flooding in Wheeling.

But witnesses at the scene said it appeared water was flowing from behind Hardee’s, where Long Run is situated.