Pipeline path may avoid old cemetery PDF Print E-mail
Written by By ALEX ASPACHER/Sentinel Staff Writer   
Thursday, 20 February 2014 09:40
PERRYSBURG — Worries over a pipeline project digging up the past have been eased by the utility company’s willingness to avoid disturbing a historic cemetery.
Local historian J.D. Justus said he met with Columbia Gas for several hours Wednesday about a proposed pipeline replacement near Fort Meigs, and he’s pleased so far with the company’s efforts to respect historical significance in the area that contains the Spafford Family Cemetery.
While Columbia Gas hasn’t released the full details of the $7 million project, it aims to replace an aging 12-inch gas line — running under the Maumee River and connecting in Perrysburg on West River Road just west of Fort Meigs Road — which has experienced repeated problems with leaks. The company wants to install a 20-inch line in the same area, but by making a new bore under the river rather than using the existing one occupied by the 12-inch line.
Columbia Gas spokesperson Chris Kozak said the line has outlived its usefulness, and the larger pipeline would allow for more capacity. He said it supplies gas to Maumee and the Toledo area, but not Perrysburg.
“That line’s decades old, so it’s time to upgrade it,” Kozak said.
Justus, who has been active in trying to open the Perrysburg Area Historical Museum located near the project area, said although it’s not delineated or marked, the Spafford Cemetery lies in the area near Fort Meigs and almost certainly contains remains of some of Perrysburg’s first families.
Some remains were discovered in 2001 by a crew installing a sewer line, and relocated a year later to Fort Meigs Union Cemetery. Justus, who was a city police officer at the time and responded to the 2001 call of the discovered remains, said similar findings occurred when a gas line was installed in 1940 and during road work in 1905.
DNA testing on the bodies found in 2001 would have been difficult and expensive, so they were never identified. Justus said members of other families were also buried in the Spafford Cemetery, making it entirely possible that they were the ones who were found, while others, including Amos Spafford, who gave the Perrysburg its name, may have been undisturbed and still remain interned there.
The pipeline will run through part of the museum property, but Justus said he was more worried about burial sites being disturbed.
“I’m not worried about the digging. Progress is progress, these things have to be done,” he said of the line replacement.
Columbia Gas was required to submit a cultural resources investigation, which was completed by URS Inc. and found artifacts in the area but determined it was not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
The cultural report was referenced in the project application made to the Ohio Power Siting Board, but the document was submitted separately due to privacy concerns, said Matthew Butler, a spokesperson with the power siting board.
The 134-page application was available on the power siting board’s website, but the agency has not yet fulfilled a public records request for the cultural resources investigation.
Justus filed a motion to intervene with the Ohio Power Siting Board last week based on the historical significance of the area, but he said he’ll be glad to withdraw it if Columbia Gas follows through on adjustments it will make to the project.
“The whole thing is protecting the people who are buried there,” he said. “If they’re sensitive to the people in the cemetery, of course I’ll withdraw it.”
Justus said he walked the site and pointed out his concerns to company representatives Wednesday, and they seemed willing to tailor their plan to accommodate respect of the potential grave sites, including moving part of the gas line and looking into hiring an archaeologist to monitor any discoveries.
“That way, if they unearth something, there’s someone around who knows what to do,” Justus said.
“To me, they’re going to treat every property with respect, and they’re also going to respect that old cemetery of the founders of Perrysburg.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 20 February 2014 10:37
 

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