By Ed Runyan
Another chapter played out Friday in the dispute between septic system installer Berry Meadows and the Trumbull County Health Department.
Testimony was heard at the Trumbull County Health Department on whether Meadows’ installer’s license should be revoked.
Jack Pierson of Akron, attorney for the health department, questioned Rebecca Fugitt, program manager for the Ohio Department of Health, who testified about what she felt Meadows and his company, Digging Dirt LLC, had done wrong.
Fugitt said she was contacted by Frank Migliozzi, director of environmental health for the health department, and Dr. James Enyeart, health commissioner, about 14 septic-tank installations out of 60 between September 2010 and April 2011 that appeared to be installed incorrectly.
Fugitt testified that the 14 septic systems “floated out of the ground.” She felt the systems would operate incorrectly as they were not level.
Of the 14, seven were installed by Digging Dirt. About five other installers were responsible for the other seven, with no single company responsible for more than two.
Fugitt referred to a letter from the owners of Stark Aeration and Supply of Canton to provide an opinion on the quality of some of Meadows’ installations. Stark concluded the tanks floated because they lacked the proper backfill material under them.
Atty. David Engler, who represents Meadows, protested that Stark Aeration is a “competitor” to Meadows and therefore not unbiased.
Engler also protested that the health board had not taken the proper formal action to hire independent hearing officer Ron Alexander of Stow, but Alexander advised that he would continue the hearing.
Fugitt said the installation instructions make it clear that large chunks of dirt should not be left under a septic tank — only loose soil or pea gravel.
Photos provided to her by the county health department showed some of the Digging Dirt installations with “floating” portions of the septic tanks, she said. The photographs also suggested that the installations had runoff water in them, which the installation manual warns against, she said.
Meadows himself questioned Fugitt as to whether the pictures were taken when the job was complete or not, and whether the floating parts were ever corrected.
Fugitt said she didn’t know and was relying on the files she had been given by the health department.
Fugitt said it is “unusual” for an installer to have so many installation problems. “It is typically not acceptable,” she said. “This is a large number of violations.”
Alexander said he would render his decision to the health board at a later date.
Meadows has battled the health department in court over access to records and recently sued the health department alleging that it teamed up with the Trumbull County Sheriff’s office to have him maliciously prosecuted.