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MAHONING COUNTY Attorney files class-action suit on behalf of flooding victims



Published: Fri, April 29, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Government negligence resulted in the problems, the suit says.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Nearly 200 Mahoning County residents, most of them living in Boardman and fed up with repeated flooding and sewage problems at their homes and businesses, have said enough is enough.

Attorney Michael P. Marando filed a class-action suit late Thursday afternoon in common pleas court seeking a writ of mandamus and other relief for 181 township and Youngstown residents. Atty. William Pfau also represents the plaintiffs.

Marando said the suit "addresses the current problem so future residents won't be affected and seeks redress for the people who have suffered flooding problems over the years."

A writ of mandamus compels a government agency or official to perform a specified duty.

Named as defendants are the county and its commissioners; county Sanitary Engineer Joseph Warino and his department; county Engineer Richard Marsico and his department; Boardman Township; and the city of Youngstown and its department of public works.

Commissioner Anthony Traficanti, commissioners' chairman, said he had not seen the suit, and couldn't comment specifically, but added he knows people were seriouslyflooded in Boardman Township over the past years and that the issue must be addressed.

Boardman Township Administrator Curt Seditz declined to comment.

The 30-page suit says the governments and their representatives were negligent in ensuring that water nuisances that have caused flooding and sewage backups in private property and businesses for years were not properly resolved.

What the suit contends

The suit arises from sanitary sewage backups during July, August and September 2003, and on other occasions before or after those dates. It says the governments owned, operated, maintained and/or operated sanitary or storm water sewers, covered drains, open drains, street drains and connected collection, transportation and treatment facilities in the affected areas.

The suit says the defendants knew or should have known the defects and deficiencies of the sewer system, and that they had a duty to properly design a "combined sanitary sewer water and storm water sewage system, which would promote the health, safety and welfare of the plaintiffs."

The suit also alleges the defendants had a duty to replace catch basin openings with covers and perform any necessary repairs of the sewer system to allow it to properly operate.

Before July 2003, the governments and their representatives improperly designed, constructed, provided, maintained or operated the sewer system resulting in the flooding and sewage backups, the suit continues.

Hardships

Plaintiffs say their homes suffered structural damage, personal property was destroyed, and they had to spend lots of money to sanitize and clean their homes because of the bacteria and other unsanitary conditions caused by the sewage backups.

They add that some basements can no longer be used as living space, they can't sell their homes because of the disclosures of sewage backups and they live in fear every time there are heavy rains.

In a news release, Pfau and Marando said, "Government is paid to protect citizens from [sewage] and flood water. Residents pay million of dollars each year in property taxes and water and sewer bills to prevent flooding."

They added that rainfall is a known reality and that failing to properly plan for rainfall is human fault.

The law firm had meetings this week at its Canfield offices to get comments from residents in Boardman, Youngstown and Poland plagued by sewage backups.

The suit wants a court to order the governments and their representatives to adopt an emergency action plan by using taxpayer funds in the affected districts.

The money would be used, among other things, to install catch basin covers and state-of-the-art backwater valves. The suit also seeks compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $25,000.




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