Today's hearing on Stickney Recycling, a North Toledo landfill that imperiled some area residents when it was engulfed in flames the first weekend in May, was adjourned without a ruling by Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Linda Jennings shortly after noon once the remaining testimony was heard.
Rather than issue a ruling on the spot, the judge — after conferring with attorneys for more than an hour — set a telephone conference call for May 28 in hopes of ending the dispute between the Ohio Attorney General's Office and the landfill's owner-operators. In the meantime, state attorneys have until May 19 to file a motion objecting to the owners' plan for accepting temporary waste shipments while a new landfill cell is developed, and gave the owners until May 21 to file their plan for installing a temporary pad to hold those shipments. She also gave both sides until May 23 to file closing, written arguments.
The temporary restraining order on new waste shipments stays in effect until at least the May 28 conference call.
Assistant State Attorney General Robert Eubanks said the Attorney General's Office continues to have concerns about the potential for more fire at the site, a construction and demolition debris landfill that contains cancer-causing asbestos and other potentially hazardous forms of waste. The site is adjacent to the city of Toledo's Dura Avenue landfill.
Mr. Eubanks said he's glad the judge kept the temporary restraining order in effect for the time being. On the first day of the two-day hearing, he presented evidence from several health and environmental inspectors that Stickney Recycling may have continued to burn beneath its surface intermittently for a week after firefighters thought the blaze had been extinguished on May 5.
"We think, at least in the interim time period, the public is served," Mr. Eubanks said.
He said state attorneys are staunchly opposed to the owners' plans for interim storage, saying it opens the potential for abuse because it could allow incoming waste to be less regulated.
Mr. Eubanks told the judge during today's session that state attorneys fear a ruling for temporary on-site waste storage at Stickney Recycling could set a bad precedent for landfill operators statewide, and that the state office would likely appeal any such ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Michael Cyphert, a Cleveland attorney representing Stickney Recycling's landfill owners and operators, said even the temporary halt on trash shipments is taking an economic toll on the company.
Trash flow is cash flow in the waste business.
"We're obviously relying on reserves," Mr. Cyphert said.
Todd Davis, an attorney and representative for the landfill owners and operators, testified this morning that Stickney Recycling "would be significantly jeopardized" if waste shipments don't resume soon.
"The company's employees - their jobs would be in great jeopardy. That's the best way I can put it. They would probably lose their jobs," Mr. Davis testified.
Stickney West C & DD LLC, Stansley Mineral Resources, Hemisphere Ltd., and Stickney Holdings LLC are the four companies previously identified as the site's partners, although in court yesterday - despite Mr. Cyphert's objection - Stickney West was identified by an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency witness as the property owner and license holder, while Stansley Mineral Resources was identified as the landfill operator.
John Pasquarette, environmental manager for the state agency's northwest district office in Bowling Green, said Hemisphere transferred title to the property over to Stickney West before the Ohio EPA issued the site its most recent license in 2012.
Mr. Davis said today he continues to represent each of the companies. He declined to single out one as the primary owner or primary operator.