The last piece of federal funding will permit construction of the sewer line to begin within weeks.
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
PERHAPS THE THING THAT
impresses a visitor the most in Petersburg is the truck traffic. Throughout the day, large trucks carrying stones from nearby underground mines rumble through. It’s a generally positive thing because it means people are at work.
But residents say they’ll be glad to get rid of one of Petersburg’s other features: the smell of septic waste that fills the air in summertime or whenever the storm sewer system backs up and overflows into the streets.
The Mahoning County Sanitary Engineer’s office put together a project containing more than 50 percent grant funding for Petersburg, an unincorporated village in the southeast corner of Mahoning County, in the 1970s. But residents stopped the action in court, saying the sewers would cost them as much as their homes.
In 2000, Springfield Township trustees asked the sanitary engineer and county board of health to revisit the idea of installing sewers there — this time with the goal of securing enough federal and state funding to make the project affordable.
Crucial to the success of the project was the help of Gov. Ted Strickland, then a congressman, and state Sen. John Boccieri, from nearby New Middletown, who helped secure $2.5 million in loans and a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Joe Warino, county sanitary engineer.
This year, officials secured the final piece of the funding puzzle — a $900,000 loan from the USDA — that allowed the project to move into the construction phase.
Construction begins soon
Dave Sugar Excavating Inc. of Petersburg is expected to begin construction within weeks and build the sewer in about a year.
The $4.7 million project will cost each of the 153 homeowners served by the project around $3,000 for tie-in and demolition of their septic systems, Warino said.
When the health department studied the area 2001, it found that most of the septic systems in the area were discharging raw or partially treated sewage into storm ditches and streams.
The health department said small lot sizes, high density, poor construction of the septic systems and poor soil conditions had created a public health nuisance. It declared 31 percent of the wells unsafe for human consumption because they are contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria, which comes from the waste products of people or animals.
With Ohio water quality standards allowing fecal counts of 1,000 colonies per 100 milliliters, the area was registering levels as high as 200,000 colonies. Of the 12 streams and ditches tested on a cold day in January, 11 were above the allowed amount.
Matt Stefanak, county health commissioner, said the counts were the highest he’s seen in his 20-year career. Warino also said the counts are the highest he has seen.
Laundry causes overflow
Lifelong Petersburg resident Patti Gibson, 39, who is also Springfield’s fiscal officer, agrees that the problem needs to be fixed and is thrilled that it finally will be.
“On a hot summer day, it [the smell] comes out of the storm sewers. In the summer, the stench is terrible,” she said.
On a recent visit to her home on Youngstown-Pittsburgh Road, she pointed to a storm sewer drain filled nearly to the top despite relatively little recent rain.
“When they do their laundry, it comes out,” she said.
The sewage smell could be detected that day but was not at its worst because it was a cool day, Gibson said.
A short distance down Youngstown-Pittsburgh Road (state route 170) at the intersection with East Garfield Road is the center of Petersburg and the home of Gorby’s grocery store and the historic Knesal Hardware.
Gorby’s owners, Rick and Karen Gorby, say the completion of the sewer line will be a boon to their business because the county health board has told them they will be able to expand their menu once the sewer line is complete.
During the 18 months the couple has owned the business, they have been unable to sell fried foods because the grease that comes from cleaning the fryers is not allowed to go into their septic system, Rick Gorby said.
Gibson said Petersburg residents are looking forward to the increase in property values that will occur because of the sewers. Gibson added that the sewer and also a water line planned for next year will improve people’s attitudes toward their homes.
“I’m hoping once we get sewers, people will take care of their places a little better,” she said, adding that road improvements are likely to be made after the sewer and water lines are completed.
Warino said the sewer line will also increase property values and development in the areas it will serve outside of Petersburg: along East Garfield and Unity Roads to the west and north of Petersburg. The line will travel 5 1⁄2 miles altogether and meet up with the existing New Middletown sewage treatment plant.