CANFIELD Builder says he'll fix silt problem in lake

When the lake was created in 1955, a swimmer could dive in off the dock. Residents say they now want it restored to that condition.
CANFIELD -- A local builder has pledged to fix a problem with soil erosion even though the law may not require it.
Gene Russo, developer of Fox Den, a middle-class neighborhood off Raccoon Road, told residents there that he will do whatever it takes to reduce soil erosion in the development.
The erosion is creating a problem with the buildup of silt that washes into a private lake every time it rains.
Soil erosion and runoff are not uncommon in areas where new neighborhoods are being developed, said Dan Bogoevski, an environmental specialist with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Developers are responsible for putting in retention ponds and silt traps and taking other measures to prevent erosion and contain sediment as specified in plans approved by the OEPA.
Once construction begins, inspectors notify contractors of any violations or deficiencies in the plan.
Inspections of construction sites in the Fox Den development yielded some deficiencies, Bogoevski said, and letters were sent to the developer informing him of the situation and requesting immediate action.
"As of our last inspection, the majority of the problems have been corrected."
The deficiencies involved primarily seeding, mulching and individual lot practices, which mandate that silt fences be installed on every site where construction is under way. Some of those silt fences are in need of repair, Bogoevski said.
Private lake: The OEPA's authority stops there. It cannot order the developer to clean up a private lake that neighbors say has been filling with silt since construction in the development began in 1996.
Neither can the Mahoning County Planning Commission or the Mahoning County engineer's office, which also had to check off on the erosion and sediment control plan Russo was required to submit before construction started.
"All we want is the lake cleaned up," said Edwin R. Thompson, who built the six-acre lake in 1955. Then, his children could dive off the dock, he said.
If his grandchildren did that today, their heads would get stuck in the mud, he added.
"We all learned to water ski on the lake. Now, you can't even run the boat up there," Thompson said.
"When I built the lake, it was 13 feet deep at one end and 5 feet deep at the other. I just measured it this morning, and it's only 32 inches deep where it should be about 5 feet."
History: Thompson bought 130 acres off Raccoon Road in the mid-1950s. He planned to turn the farmland into residential neighborhoods. Two years after building the lake and completing other site improvements, he built his own home there.
His family enjoyed the property and their privacy so much that he decided not to develop it. When his four children came of age, he plotted off a 5-acre section around the lake for each of them. Only one built a house there.
In 1994, Russo, a local home builder, offered to buy the land surrounding Thompson's homestead. Thompson's children and grandchildren were grown and he was in his mid-80s, too old to do anything more with the property. He'd also never seen a return on his investment and figured selling the land he didn't use was a good idea.
When Russo started moving soil, building roads and plotting homesites in what was to become the Fox Den development, Raymond P. Stiger, who lives downstream, began noticing an unusually muddy discharge in the stream every time it rained.
As development continued, the problem became more apparent, affecting a larger area and, eventually, Thompson's lake.
"Our lake turns into a chocolate milkshake every time it rains and it takes at least two weeks to settle," said Joe Davis, who lives in the house where Thompson's son once lived. Davis doesn't own any of the lake, but his yard adjoins it.
Last summer, so much sediment washed into the lake that many of the fish died, Davis said. The silt clogged their gills.
Vegetation that has sprouted near the edge of the lake, where sediment has been deposited, he said, also robs the lake of oxygen essential to the fish.
"We're only interested in having the lake cleaned out -- dredged -- to make it like it was before," Thompson said.
Letters: Richard A. Marsico, Mahoning County engineer, and the OEPA, issued several letters to Russo from May 1999 to July of this year informing him that work in the development was not in compliance with his OEPA permit for erosion and sediment control.
When questioned recently by The Vindicator, Russo said, "If there is a problem, I'll take care of it."
Since then, Davis, Thompson and Russo have discussed the situation and Russo has met with officials from the Mahoning County Soil and Water Conservation District.
"Now [Russo is] getting ready to do everything he needs to do," Davis said. "That's all I ever wanted."

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