After a month of dealing with a lake that is still about a foot and a half over its normal level, the residents of Muzzy Lake fear the weather forecast.
With water in the crawl spaces and around the foundations of many homes, the residents of the Rootstown development fear that rain could drive the level of the lake higher, and freezing could cause the water already there to damage the foundations of the homes.
And while some potential solutions are being considered, nobody is quite sure how much good those remedies will do. And some are concerned that the whole thing will end up in court.
James Eden, president of the East Muzzy Lake Homeowners association, said there are about 60 homes in the area. About half of those are occupied year-round and of those 30, six to eight are seriously affected. Another 10 or so are partially affected, he said.
Since late October, when Hurricane Sandy pushed the lake over its banks, the water level has gone down about eight inches. However, it's still about 18 inches too high, and only going down about half an inch a day. That means that at this rate, it could be more than a month before the water drains naturally.
So far, the lake has receded almost seven inches in about a month's time.
"We appreciate everything the city, the county, the township and ODOT is trying to do," Eden said. "It's just not enough."
The lake is owned by the city of Ravenna, which once used it as a water supply. The county has a stake in the lake because of pump stations and manholes in the Muzzy Lake sewer system. ODOT has been involved because I-76 changed the drainage in that corner of Rootstown, and installed two culverts under the highway when the expressway was built. At least one of those culverts is thought to be partially blocked, and both are believed to be too small to handle the drainage.
Wayne Carkido of the Portage County Wastewater Division said the county has three pump stations in the area, and five manholes, two of which are still submerged. The manholes are equipped with devices that limit how much water can seep into the sewer system, and the pump stations have not been in danger of being flooded.
He blames the current flooding on Hurricane Sandy, and on a possible blockage or restriction to the outfall for Muzzy Lake. Because that outfall is located on city property, the county is unable to confirm the blockage. He has heard unconfirmed reports that the city had agreed to dredge out the outfall in the late 1990s, when similar flooding took place.
Ravenna Service Director Kelly Engelhart said the city is willing to investigate the pipe. "In doing so, the city's law director is drafting an agreement that will permit work to take place without liability or responsibility implied to the city's investigatory action," she stated.
Portage County Commissioner Chris Smeiles has floated a potential short-term solution to the problem.
Smeiles thinks the county, city and township governments should collaborate on renting a pump to remove the excess water from the lake. The water, he said, would be directed to the culverts under I-76, switching to the second one if the first one is blocked.
"The remedy is a temporary one to minimize damage," he said. "Once the water is down, it's up to the community to figure out a permanent solution."
Engelhart said the city has investigated renting a pump, and learned that it is pricey -- $1,500 a week or $4,000 for a month. The city is asking other communities if any of them have a pump the city can borrow.
Engelhart said the city is concerned that it could bring liability on itself by doing anything.
"We have some serious concerns about our taxpayer dollars being spent outside the city," she said.
Smeiles said the county and village of Brady Lake did a similar intervention several years ago when Lake Brady was over its banks and a pump station was threatened.
"I am hoping the county, city and township can work out a solution," he said, adding that his talks with the city have been positive.
Eden said he hopes the pumps provide "the relief we need so desperately here." Once the water recedes, he said, residents still will have to individually pump the water out of their crawl spaces.
Trustee Brett Housley said trustees recently asked the Portage County Regional Planning Commission to see if there is any grant money available for a long-term solution.
"The trustees are concerned about the residents of Muzzy Lake," he said.
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