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Drain backups lead to discovery, repair of undocumented sewer line by North Olmsted middle school

By Jeff Gallatin

North Olmsted

Investigation of recent drain backups in the North Olmsted Middle School led to the discovery and repair of an apparently undocumented sewer line under the recently constructed parking area adjacent to the school.

Mike McDade, business services director for the schools, said the repairs were made to the line last week after the source of the problem was discovered.

“We were able to cap it and get everything sealed up,” he said. “The workers were able to get in there without tearing up a lot of the area.”

McDade said officials had initially been afraid they would have to tear up much of the recently completed parking area, which is designed to make traffic flow more smoothly through the middle school area at the beginning and end of the school days when parents and buses are dropping off and picking up students.

“That would have been a lot worse in terms of work and disruption to the school,” McDade said. “Fortunately, once we discovered what the problem was, we isolated it and then they were able to do the work in a corner outside the parking and traffic area.”

McDade said the problem was discovered after school and city officials used detection equipment to try to determine where the drain backups, which were initially detected in late October, were coming from.

“It started when we had the backups in the school,” he said. “We tried fixing the areas, but that didn’t seem to help. So, we shut down one bathroom and closed off one drain area by the cafeteria. We also stopped food service in that area for several days and had it made and brought in from the high school.”

McDade said the shutdowns were done as a safety precaution.

“There is a lot of laundry and cleanup done in that area of the cafeteria normally and of course, when there is food in an area it has to be kept clean and sanitary,” he said. “And we didn’t want anyone going in the one bathroom until we discovered the problem and dealt with it.”

He said when workers couldn’t isolate the problem with the initial examinations, they checked blueprints both in school and city of North Olmsted records.

“There was no record of lines or sewers in where we ended up finding them,” he said.

After the initial examinations and document checks netted nothing, the schools and city put cameras and detection equipment into the affected areas.

“I’m very proud of the crews,” Scott Thomas, safety/service director for the city, said. “They put in a lot of hours to find out out what was going on down there, and they found the problem so it could be fixed.”

Thomas and McDade indicated the lines and sewer infrastructure probably went in sometime between 1940 and 1960.

“Unfortunately, they just didn’t have the technology then to do a lot of mapping and other documentation of what went into the area,” Thomas said. “So, we’ve found instances where something just isn’t there. The good thing is, now we have it mapped and recorded, so we know where things are.”

McDade said in addition to discovering and fixing the problem, the district was also able to handle the problem financially.

“We were still able to keep it in the $290,000 (range), which had been budgeted for the overall parking lot project,” he said.



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