Construction Worries Residents, Benefits City

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COLUMBIA - A pipe shooting steam into the air has some Columbia residents worried, but workers say the project will benefit, not harm, the city.

Residents of Mikel Street noticed a foul smell when a pipe connected to the sewer began blowing steam above ground. One resident said it smelled like strong paint.

Some worried the work was exposing them to hazardous chemicals. However, Dan Stoffel, the supervisor of the project from Visu-Sewer, Inc., said the steam coming from underground is not toxic.

He said the amount of the chemical compound that caused the smell, Styrene, was too low to cause any harm to residents or the environment and has never proven to be a hazard during company testing. He says even pregnant women and people with respiratory problems have nothing to worry about.

Stoffel says the construction is to repair underground pipes and is "very beneficial" to the community's infrastructure. He says these repairs will prevent above ground damage to curbs and sidewalks and last for generations.

Some neighbors complain they were not notified of the work in advance. Resident Terry Sanders said he wishes there would have been some sort of communication telling residents about the construction and whether the chemicals being released into the air are hazardous.

"The smell kept getting stronger and stronger and I didn't know what it was," Sanders said. "We don't know what we were smelling or what's going to be the outcome of it. We have no idea what's going on and the city could have told us something."

KOMU 8 News tried to contact Columbia Public Works but was not able to talk to anyone. Stoffel hopes to finish the work in July.

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