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Sewage problem backs up court in W.Va.

May 30, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Backed-up sewer pipes created a stink at Berkeley County Magistrate Court Tuesday morning and prompted the postponement of afternoon cases.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Gregory Jones and Stephen Groh said a terrible smell permeated the entire building until at least noon.

"It was definitely giving you a headache," Groh said. "It was nauseating."

"It smelled like sewer gas," Jones said.

The court building's side doors, usually closed and locked, were left open to provide fresh air. It took at least an hour to get rid of the smell, Jones said.

The cause of the problem was not known, but sewage pipes in the basement were believed to be the problem. County employees were still fixing them at mid-afternoon Tuesday.

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Groh said it was difficult to work through about nine cases in the first-floor courtroom in the morning. Jones, who prosecuted in the second-floor courtroom, said several of his cases were adjourned, unrelated to the smell.

A few afternoon hearings were postponed because of the problem. Only a case involving a jail inmate was scheduled to proceed, according to Groh.

The court clerk's office closed early, but magistrates' offices were open.

While listening to a case involving a family protection order in her office, Magistrate Sandra Miller had a strawberry-scented candle burning.

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