Cadiz police arrest meeting organizer on an old warrant

Lawyers may file lawsuit against agencies, companies

T-L Photo/SHELLEY HANSON SCIO RESIDENT Trish McAfee, center, talks to Cadiz police before being arrested on Wednesday at the Days Inn in Cadiz, where she organized a meeting about Scio's water problems.

CADIZ — Trish McAfee was arrested on an old Harrison County Sheriff’s Department warrant during a meeting she organized about Scio’s water issues on Wednesday at the Days Inn in Cadiz.

Meanwhile, the Harrison County Health Department and village of Scio appear to have different opinions about whether a “do not drink” advisory should have been lifted.

McAfee, a Scio resident, was standing in the open doorway to the conference room when she announced that she was about to be arrested by Cadiz police. Three uniformed officers asked her to exit the building with them.

A group of lawyers from two different law firms — who said Wednesday they aim to file a lawsuit over the high manganese content in the village’s water supply — followed her out into the lobby. They, along with the residents who also followed, asked the officers why McAfee was being arrested. The officers said she was being taken into custody on a sheriff’s warrant, but they did not know why it had been issued.

About an hour later, McAfee came back into the room during a press conference with the lawyers, who earlier collected several signatures from residents on retainer agreements for the Marc J. Bern & Partners LLP of New York, N.Y., a firm that has filed lawsuits related to the Flint, Mich., lead-contaminated water crisis.

“I got arrested for a warrant from (December 2014). I was supposed to show up for court, but I was told I didn’t have to show for court. So I didn’t, like normal people wouldn’t waste their time. … My next court appearance is Oct. 13. … It’s over a car from 15 years ago, if you guys can believe that,” McAfee said, noting she was not required to post bond before being released.

“They (police) got a phone call at 3 p.m. saying that I was here,” McAfee said. “At least some people are going to be saved from having to drink this water. That’s all that matters. I don’t even care that I got arrested. It just goes to show the ignorance of others.”

New York lawyer Chet Kern said he was contacted by Brian Zimmerman, a Canton, Ohio-based lawyer, six days ago. Zimmerman asked for his help pursuing the case in Scio.

“We hope to help the residents of the village of Scio with the numerous problems they are going to face. … We just want to help the people. In this day and age, they deserve to be compensated. They deserve to be protected. They deserve to be reimbursed for water they had to pay for that was not potable.”

He added later that he was “saddened” that McAfee was arrested.

“It was a waste of resources of the police department,” Kern said.

About a potential lawsuit, Kern said there is “enough blame to go around” regarding Scio’s water issues. Though some research still needs to be done, he added that blame could possibly be put on independent companies involved in the testing of the water and construction of the water treatment system, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and even the village of Scio.

But Kern said he planned to talk with village council Wednesday evening about possibly joining the suit. It did not appear any village officials attended the residents’ meeting at the hotel.

Last week, the county health department and village both issued “do not drink” advisories for Scio’s water because of manganese levels that were too high. Manganese is a naturally occurring element that can cause adverse health effects if too much is consumed or inhaled.

Since then, Village Administrator Jason Tubaugh has said the OEPA has been conducting tests of samples at its lab, along with the village having an independent company conduct testing as well, leading to the lifting of the advisories for several streets at a time. On Wednesday, the village issued a statement saying the advisory had been lifted for the entire water system.

But John Carr, preparedness coordinator for the Harrison County General Health District, said his department had not lifted its advisory because it was testing one more sample, the results of which are expected to be available today.

“We want to be fully sure before we commit ourselves into saying ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ That’s where we’re at,” Carr said.

During the meeting with residents, a couple people said they had suffered lesions after taking showers with the water. One woman said her neighbor had to be taken to the hospital after her tongue developed a black film on it after consuming the water.

Afterward, resident Ken Wilson, who moved to Scio four years ago, said he was fed up with the way the village’s residents were being treated, especially concerning the water situation. He said residents have only been given a gallon of bottled water a day. Wilson noted he has a water softener on his home’s system. After turning it off one day and forgetting to turn it back on, he drank the water and said his tongue developed the black film as well.

“We have been sitting back too long. We need to stand up for our rights,” Wilson said. “I hope we get some representation for all these people here. I hope they get something done.”

Scio resident Ron Wilds, who works at The Restaurant, said the eatery is losing business because people are afraid to eat there because of the water situation. He noted the restaurant is using bottled water for cooking but is permitted to wash (but not rinse) with the tap water.

Wilds said he personally has not consumed Scio’s water for the past four years because “it stunk.”

Bottled water still is being offered to residents from 9 a.m. to noon and 5-8:30 p.m. daily at the Scio Volunteer Fire Department.