Who's to blame for water worries near Bellevue Hospital?

BELLEVUE Roger Jenkins has to drive 15 miles to get clean drinking water from a city outlet in Clyde
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Roger Jenkins has to drive 15 miles to get clean drinking water from a city outlet in Clyde.

The trip is a hassle for Jenkins, a resident of Bellevue, but he's had to make it regularly ever since he said his well water became undrinkable several years ago.

He said contractors and engineers are to thank for that, even though a recent court decision relieved them of liability in a suit brought by some of Jenkins' neighbors.

"They didn't drill the sinkholes right -- they drilled them like you'd drill a well" and that contaminated the area's well water, Jenkins said.

The 70-year-old retiree lives on the 2000 block of County Road 302, and is a neighbor of The Bellevue Hospital's new home, since construction began in 2003.

More than a dozen neighbors who live in the area of County Road 302 and U.S. 20 alleged in a lawsuit the construction caused flooding to the adjacent property that contaminated the groundwater.

"Depending on location, the water problems ... have included sand and silt in the water, intolerable odor in the water, and the water quality falling below minimum standards for use as drinking water," according to court documents.

The group of neighbors originally filed suit in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court in 2004 against many of the parties involved in the project -- Bellevue Hospital, Bellevue Development Corp., WSOS, the city of Bellevue, former Bellevue mayor Charles Trapp, Bellevue's city engineer and Tibboles Well Drilling. But the case never went to trial because Bellevue Hospital settled, according to court records. The terms of the settlement were not made public.

After the trial court dismissed the other claims, about seven households filed suit Sept. 29, 2005, in the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals against the remaining parties to the construction, according to the suit.

In a judgment handed down in February, the court ruled in favor of the city and contractors, citing the appellants' failure to "submit expert evidence" disputing the city and contractor's claims.

The charges of negligence that led to environmental damage had no substance without expert witness testimony, the court ruled.

Attorney Jim Hart represented Bellevue Development Corp. and said the residents could produce no compelling evidence to support their claims. Such a failure shows that their claims were baseless, he said.

"They didn't have days, they didn't have weeks, they didn't have months -- they had years to produce a witness to come forward and establish this, and they never did," Hart said.

"There is nobody in the world who said there was any connection between murky water and the construction project."

But plaintiff attorney Loretta Riddle tells a different story of what happened.

"We did have experts -- I think it became a question for the court, although I think incorrectly, that they didn't think our experts' testimony ... could carry the day in a jury trial," Riddle said. "One of our experts did a dye test, where they actually poured dyes down the wells, and you follow where the dye comes out of. The fact is the dye came out in a few of our clients' houses. Doing that dye test showed the flow of the water, which showed those injection wells were draining into our clients' homes."