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Clothing causes sewer problem at Berkeley Co. jail

April 08, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Just about everyone has had to deal with a clogged toilet at some time or another, but chances are it was nothing like the troubles the Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District has been dealing with for about the past year.

"To get a whole jumpsuit down a toilet seems like a major undertaking," General Manager Curtis Keller said of the items from Eastern Regional Jail that have been jamming a pumping station auger.

Towels, socks, underwear, laundry bags, even what appears to be medical waste, have gotten into the pumping station, with the articles wrapping themselves around the auger, a device designed to separate trash out of the sewage, Keller said.

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"Our employees have to go down there and clear it out," said County Commissioner Ronald L. Collins, a member of the board of directors of the sewer district. He brought pictures to the Berkeley County Commission meeting Thursday of the prisoner uniforms and other items found in the pumping station.

At one point, the auger had so much clothing and other material wrapped in it, workers had to use an acetylene torch to burn off the debris, Collins said.

Keller said the county has spent approximately $11,000 to clear out the jams during the past six months or so and upwards of 200 hours of district employees' labor.

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Collins said the board of directors of the sewer authority recently authorized the sewer district's attorney to send a letter to the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority to take action to remedy the situation.

Keller said actions on the part of the sewer district could include a surcharge, billing the state for the cost of clearing the auger's frequent jams.

Keller believes the problem came when sewer service was switched from the old jail to the new jail. The old jail had a shredder on its sewer connection called a "muffin monster," designed to tear up anything before it got into the sewer lines and pumping station.

"In the process of changing over, the shredder has been taken out," he said.

A jail spokesman who answered the phone Thursday night said he could not comment.

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