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A North Toledo landfill that has been on fire for more than two weeks may not accept any waste for the next few days, a Lucas County judge ruled Friday.
After a lengthy meeting with attorneys for both the owners and operators of Stickney Recycling and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Common Pleas Judge Linda Jennings issued a temporary restraining order that prohibits any waste from being accepted at the site until a hearing on a permanent injunction is held in her courtroom at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Attorney General Mike DeWine, acting at the request of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Toledo/Lucas County Health Department, filed a complaint Friday that alleges the landfill at 4425 Creekside Ave., which is both a construction and demolition-debris landfill and an asbestos-waste disposal site, “is on fire and in violation of multiple laws and rules governing the proper management” of such facilities.
“Compounding the public-health concerns is the presence of asbestos on site which can be released into the atmosphere in conjunction with the fire and efforts to put it out,” attorneys for the state wrote in a motion for a temporary restraining order. “These conditions pose a serious health threat to the residents of Lucas County.”
Health officials Friday asked residents near the fire at the recycling plant to stay inside their homes — as a precaution — while the fire burned at the North Toledo facility.
The announcement was made at news conference called Friday afternoon by Toledo-Lucas County Health Department and Toledo Fire Department officials, along with members of the state and federal environmental protection agencies.
“Stay inside. That’s all you have to do, especially if you have respiratory health concerns,” said Eric Zgodzinski, director of environmental services for the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.
“It’s construction demolition debris [burning],” Mr. Zgodzinski said. “If you picture your house, a building, you take out everything that you possibly can — furniture, paintings, things of that nature — you demo[lish] that house then and then you ... put it into a landfill.
“You can imagine, though, that there could be things there that they might miss [in the building slated for demolition] that could be an issue, whether that’s asbestos or things of that nature,” he went on to say. “[And] you never quite know what may be in that landfill itself.”
The complaint names Hemisphere Ltd., Stickney West C&DD LLC, Stansley Mineral Resources, and Stickney Holdings LLC, as defendants in the case.
Erik Wineland, attorney for Hemisphere Ltd., said after the hearing that the company disputes the government’s allegations, but he did not elaborate.
Mr. Wineland told the court that trains loaded with waste for disposal may be arriving at the facility before Tuesday, but those train cars would be stored and not unloaded — a condition that was acceptable to attorneys for the state.
The attorney general’s complaint seeks a long list of limitations on the landfill as well as civil penalties of $10,000 or $25,000 per day per violation. The alleged violations include:
● From at least July 13, 2013, to Sept. 20, 2013, and from at least March 31, 2014, to April 30, the landfill failed to cover waste with noncombustible material.
● From at least April 14 to the present, the landfill has been on fire and the landfill operators have “failed to act immediately with adequate fire control equipment, material, and services to control fire and explosion.”
● From at least March 31 to April 30, the landfill operators disposed of construction and demolition debris outside of the licensed disposal area.
● On April 11 and April 18, the landfill was staffed with personnel who were not properly trained.
● From at least Dec. 28, 2012, to April 30, 2013, and from Feb. 27, 2014, to April 30, the landfill operators did not maintain the integrity of the engineered leachate collection system and failed to repair damage to the system.
● From at least April 11 to April 30, the landfill accepted and disposed of waste without having any designated unloading zones where the debris could be inspected and prohibited waste could be removed before disposal.
● From at least Aug. 23, 2013, to April 30, the operators failed to compact waste, which formed large vertical cliffs of waste.
● From at least Feb. 27 to April 30, the operators allowed litter to collect at the rail area where the facility accepts and loads construction and demolition debris onto trucks to be disposed of at the landfill.
● The operators have failed to maintain a map of the location, noting depth, area, and quantity in cubic yards of all asbestos-waste disposal areas.
Mr. Zgodzinski said officials who had been continuously monitoring the air around the site had found levels of pollutants elevated, but not dangerously so, and would continue to monitor the air “through the weekend, into the next week, and probably for a while longer.” The request to stay in homes applies to those living in the area between Manhattan Boulevard, I-75, and Lagrange Street.
The Toledo Fire Department was dispatched to the business at about 6 a.m. Friday, according to spokesman Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld. The fire was contained to a 20-by-20-foot area holding large amounts of construction demolition debris.
Toledo fire Chief Luis Santiago said fire crews arrived at the fire scene and saw the company “making efforts to extinguish it.” By the time of the news conference, the fire was about “60 percent contained,” and there was no threat of the fire spreading, Chief Santiago said.
Chief Santiago said it was unclear what caused the fire, how deep it was, and how long it would take to extinguish it. No injuries had been reported, he said.
Fire crews will continue to rotate in four-hour shifts until the fire is extinguished, the fire chief said.
Lieutenant Hertzfeld said the fire could smolder for days or weeks.
“It’s kind of like burning a big pile of leaves,” he said. “Sometimes it will flare up, and other times it sits there and smolders.”
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.