Pipeline altering countryside
MANSFIELD OH- Judy Handmaker says she has cried over the Rover natural gas pipeline cutting through her family's almost 80 acres of farmland on Ohio 545.
Handmaker, 73, of Louisville, Ky., said her ancestors including Samuel Osbun, who served in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, settled in Richland County after the war, having owned farmland stretching from Richland Shale Road to Franklin-Church Road.
"They came to Ohio because the land is good and rich," she said.
Handmaker said she and her sister, Beth Houston Statzer of Virginia, are very distressed about what has happened to their family farm because of the pipeline.
"We fought it. We hired an attorney to speak for us. I can't begin to tell you how much our family is linked to the area," said Handmaker.
Their property is located next to Dayspring, the county home.
"Our farm has been butchered. We are just heartsick. Our mother (Edith Reid Houston) died in November 2015 at the age of 100 and she was heartbroken," she said. Handmaker grew up here and lived on the farm at Epworth until 1965. "My mother's parents came to Mansfield during the Depression in 1931 from West Virginia. We won't give up the farm. It will go to our children," she said.
Handmaker said she and her sister won't be able to rent the land to a local farmer this year for crops since the pipeline cut through it. Next year she said the farmer will be able to plant, providing the land is not flooded. She said the family no longer has a timber crop since the oak, walnut, maple and cherry trees were cut down.
"They paid you one time for trees which were not mature," she said. "We told them we'd rather have the trees, that we didn't want any money."
Handmaker isn't the only property owner affected by the Rover pipeline.
Sixty-one property owners in Richland County have easements for the Rover pipeline, according to the Richland County Recorders Office website. Richland County Engineer Adam Gove said there are 61 property owners but there could be multiple properties.
About 35 miles of the $4.2-billion dollar, 711-mile dual-pipeline between southern Michigan and western Pennsylvania and West Virginia runs through Richland County. The second 42-inch line, which will be installed about 20 feet from the first, is expected to be completed and operating by the end of November. 'An inconvenience'
While some lament its impact on their land, others view the pipeline construction as temporary inconvenience that will serve the greater good.
People traveling on Ohio 545 have been part of traffic snarls with one lane of traffic open at various times and waits of up to 20 minutes.
Wednesday afternoon, three semi trucks brought over-sized construction equipment to the pipeline construction site on Ohio 545 near Dayspring. Two state highway patrol cars monitored the activity throughout the day.
Some homeowners reported that the pipeline construction has meant dirty windows on their houses, dirty cars in their driveways and lots of noise from construction equipment. There is a lot more traffic, with numerous trucks and vehicles back and forth on the roads in and around northern Richland County. Big machines sweep the mud from the trucks and construction equipment off the roads.
At Ohio 603 and U.S. 42, John Kamenick can view the pipeline construction from his front door.
Kamenik, a pharmacist, said the pipeline employees working on his land are doing a pretty good job.
Kamenik, who also farms with his brothers, said the pipeline construction has meant doing some things different this planting season in their fields.
He said usually he and his brothers would be planting corn in some fields but this year they can't.
"Some things are an inconvenience," he said.
While he doesn't really care for the pipeline being in his neighborhood, Kamenik said it will help people in the big scheme of things.
Rover Pipeline construction resulted in a spill of almost 50,000 gallons of a clay-based drilling fluid into a wetland on Pavonia Road East on April 14. It was in the very spot Kathy Wolfe was most concerned about - near a nesting pair of eagles.
Wolfe and her husband, James Wolfe, own 480 acres on the Ashland-Richland county line. The couple had purchased and preserved this land after falling in love with its biological diversity which included protected species of birds including the American bald eagle and sandhill crane.
The Wolfes repeatedly requested an alternate pipeline route to bypass the area, talking initially to the News Journal in 2015 about the diversity of wildlife on their land. They refused to settle on the easement, fighting the pipeline until the last possible moment when their attorney began to prepare them to be summoned into federal court..
"I have no confidence they were able to adequately contain or remove the drilling fluid because that entire area is under water and I'm very upset they didn't have the courtesy to notify me as a property owner that this had happened," Kathy Wolfe said Thursday.
"They have continued to pump water off the right of way into my fields which I believe could be potentially contaminating other areas," she said. "They plan to go back there to lay a second pipe and I'm sure there will be another spill."
Beyond construction phase
Richland County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Bailey said as the pipeline goes from the the construction phase to the operational mode, the EMA will continue to monitor and work with pipeline officials and make sure pertinent information is shared with first responders.
Bailey said he has been working even before the spill to setup a meeting w with area fire chiefs from Cass, Weller, Jackson and Franklin townships who are affected by both the Rover and Utopia pipelines on the operational phase issues
Bailey said his office and Rover officials have had ongoing meetings.
"They've been good about sweeping debris off the roads," he said. "We have had no complaints.