A Hubbard water line has run through a sewer manhole for 30 years. It’s just now getting fixed

(Getty Images)

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is concerned about a certain Hubbard city public water system line because it passes through a sanitary sewer manhole.

That’s not supposed to happen — and its installation wasn’t EPA-approved — but no one can tell us how it happened.

The water line creates a potential health hazard, and it’s been that way for about 30 years — yet state officials just notified the city about it last month, according to an EPA violation notice published Dec. 27.

The Hubbard water distribution extension line in question is in front of the Shell gas station at Truck World along North Main Street, just northeast of the Interstate 80 and state Route 62 interchange in the township, EPA records show.

The EPA couldn’t find any records showing it had approved the extension line’s installation plan, and the city’s public water system operators likewise couldn’t find any records they had sought EPA approval. The line’s existence constitutes a “significant deficiency,” and it has until Jan. 26 to fix the problem by rerouting the water line away from the manhole.

But how did it get there in the first place? That’s unclear.

Edward Palestro, the city’s utilities superintendent, told Mahoning Matters the line was installed 30 years ago.

“We know about as little as you know because nobody’s around to even address it,” he said. “The only thing I can really tell you is they brought it to our attention.”

The Ohio EPA recently received a complaint regarding the line’s location inside the sewer manhole, said spokesperson Anthony Chenault. It’s now working with the city to determine how it was installed there. Though public water systems rely on “asset management programs” to identify aging infrastructure that’s due for replacement, the Truck World line is “a unique situation,” he said.

“There is a risk of bacterial contamination in the water line if it would break and sewage elevated to a point that it could enter through the break,” Chenault told Mahoning Matters. “Ohio EPA considers this potential situation to be an unacceptable risk to health; situations that provide a potential pathway for contamination into drinking water or pose an unacceptable risk to health are termed as ‘significant deficiencies.”

But the water system hasn’t been contaminated, Chenault confirmed. Recent bacteria sampling of the city’s water system has met EPA standards, he said.

“If the water line should break prior to resolving the significant deficiency, a boil advisory would be issued to protect the consumers,” Chenault said.

The city samples for coliform bacteria at two locations along North Main Street that are close to the Truck World water line: the McDonald’s right across the street and the Love’s Travel Plaza downstream, just south of the interchange, according to a Dec. 29 email to the EPA from city water system Administrator George Ginnis.

“This is an unfortunate situation but a situation that the city of Hubbard will get rectified as soon as possible,” reads Ginnis’ email.

Palestro said the city tests for bacteria monthly, and there haven’t been any water quality issues.

“We’re grateful for that. We’re going to correct it as soon as possible. We’re already in the works to get the work started,” he said.

C. Crump Inc. of Hubbard submitted a $40,000 estimate to reroute the 12-inch line, including $19,000 for materials and restorative work. Work was expected to start Jan. 4, according to the estimate.

Palestro told Mahoning Matters last week he expected the work would be finished by the end of the month.

Engineers rely on sound record keeping to know what’s below ground, said Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti. But sometimes work isn’t done according to plan.

“You always run into unknowns and the unexpected during construction,” he said. “You see it more with gas lines or fiber optic [lines] … either the plans don’t show them correctly or they were installed incorrectly.”

Improper utility installations discovered during new work can often cause project delays, Ginnetti added. During the county’s South Avenue widening project last year, workers discovered an improperly placed gas line that had to be relocated, he said.

They weren’t a major hold-up, but it “could have been a lot worse,” Ginnetti said.

“We’re always updating plans and specifications, and there’s good reason for it,” he said.

Justin Dennis has been on the beat since 2011, covering crime, courts and public education. Dennis grew up in Poland and Salem and studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and University of Pittsburgh.
Copyright Privacy Policy Terms of Service