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Not Just Any Road Project
Sunday 27 September 2015
Not just any road project
Judge grants injunction delaying road repairs in case pitting couple against neighbors
The frustrations of residents living on a dusty road filled with washboard ruts and potholes are being pitted against a husband and wife’s concerns about her chemical sensitivity, and what they say could be a life-threatening reaction to asphalt work.
On Wednesday afternoon, Common Pleas Court Judge Pat Lang granted a preliminary injunction, for now blocking Maiden’s plan to chip and seal part of Dutch Creek Road. The county road runs between Ohio Rts. 690 and 550 in a rural area northeast of Athens.
That decision may mean the road repairs will have to wait till next spring, since once cooler fall weather hits, the work apparently can't be done.
Attorneys spent over six hours in a court hearing Monday afternoon and into evening, taking testimony and arguing the case. On one side, assistant county prosecutor Zach Saunders represented Maiden, and on the other, local attorney Sky Pettey represented Bob and Cindy Madej, who have filed suit against Maiden in an attempt to stop the roadwork.
Last week, Lang issued a temporary order that blocked Maiden from going forward with chip-and-seal work on the section of road where the Madejs live, while chip-and-seal work continued on the other end of the road.
Chip-and-seal work involves spraying a base of hot asphalt onto an existing roadway and then embedding finely graded “chip” aggregate into it before rolling it into a smooth pavement surface.
Cindy Madej suffers from multiple chemical sensitivity, her doctor testified Monday, a chronic medical condition characterized by a variety of symptoms associated with low levels of chemical exposure from substances including but not limited to pesticides, plastics, synthetic fabrics and petroleum products.
She testified Monday to having had a history of bad reactions to asphalt and tar, including nausea, headaches, difficulty breathing, chest tightness and headaches. Her husband Bob, attorney Pettey and physician, Dr. Barbara Singer, all spoke to the effect that Cindy Madej’s life could be put in jeopardy if she is exposed to the fumes of chemicals from chip-and-seal roadwork.
Dr. Singer testified that Madej’s health has been on a downward spiral since last spring, and that her patient has lost more than 20 pounds in a matter of months.
“She is a very gravely ill woman,” Singer told the court. “This (roadwork project) could be life-threatening.”
Bob Madej testified to his wife’s condition and the precautions the couple has to take in order to mitigate her various sensitivities. He said that he has to undress before entering the house if he’s been out about town, and then shower multiple times to remove chemical residue from his skin. He said his wife has a sleeping cottage lined with glass from floor to ceiling in order to prevent harmful exposures.
The Madejs moved to Athens from the Columbus area more than five years ago in order to live in a more open-air environment and avoid the problems associated with the city, he testified. Cindy Madej has difficulty finding food that is edible to her and has to purchase water especially from the Cleveland area, he said.
Testifying via telephone, Cindy Madej said it would take a month or more to prepare in such a way as to relocate while the roadwork is done, and Bob Madej said it would take significant money, time and effort to attempt to recreate elsewhere the safe environment they have at home for Cindy.
Other road residents have health concerns, too
Maiden and the county commissioners recently received a petition from Dutch Creek Road residents, signed by 60 people, to do something about extreme dust, pothole and gravel conditions on the roadway over the summer months.
Residents of Dutch Creek Road testified Monday to dust covering their homes, cars and properties, inflaming allergies, and clogging their air filters and damaging their vehicles, as well as gravel causing leaks in their tires, as reasons for their desire for the road to be improved.
While some residents testified to the danger of dust on the roadway, saying at its worst drivers and even school-bus drivers can’t see 20 feet in front of them, Pettey repeatedly noted that there have been no accidents on the roadway.
After receiving the petition, Maiden testified, he was in communication with Bob Madej and eventually decided to hold a public meeting where residents could voice all sides of the issue. Bob Madej testified to being interrupted and having his and his wife’s concerns dismissed by neighbors during that meeting in early September.
After the meeting, Maiden decided to proceed with the roadwork. In a phone call Tuesday, he said that he would never proceed with the chip and seal if he really believed it would put Cindy Madej’s life in danger. He said he doesn’t believe it would.
The seriousness of Madej’s condition was a point of contention between Saunders and Pettey during the court hearing, with the testimony of Dr. Singer revealing that multiple chemical sensitivity is not recognized by the World Health Organization or the American Medical Association, but is by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Pettey emphasized that the dust and gravel problem on Dutch Creek Road is not considered by Maiden to be an “emergency,” though Maiden said under redirect from Saunders that no roadwork is an “emergency” unless a bridge has collapsed, a rock slide has occurred, or something similarly catastrophic has happened.
In final arguments, Pettey became choked up, holding back tears as he told the court that a woman’s life was at stake and that that concern far outweighs any other.
Saunders, on the other hand, pointed to Maiden’s duty to repair the roadway and said that action must be taken before a traffic accident occurs.
Meanwhile, the Madejs have filed with the court an offer to dismiss the case if Maiden agrees to postpone the work until May 30, 2016, and consider alternatives to chip and seal. This, they say, would allow them appropriate time to prepare.
The above originally appeared here.
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