Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Neighbors complain of idled trains' smell


Dan and Judy Brown say railcars headed for a local landfill are supposed to haul construction debris but smell like trash.

Hires / Blade Enlarge

FOSTORIA - Judy Brown has lived next to the CSX railroad tracks on the southern edge of town for eight years, so she's used to trains going back and forth past her house.

She said she hardly notices the clanking of trains coupling and decoupling behind her home on Williston Avenue.

But when engines idle on the tracks, as they do more and more often these days, noise and diesel fumes make her backyard uninhabitable, she said. Even worse is the smell that comes from railcars headed for the Sunny Farms Landfill, a couple of miles away in Loudon Township.

"The landfill says it's construction debris, but in the back of our yard, you can smell it," Mrs. Brown said. "It smells like trash."

Mrs. Brown and her husband, Dan, said they've seen up to 35 cars at a time parked behind their home, loaded with debris. Sometimes the cars sit for hours, even days.

"I don't think a residential neighborhood is the place to be storing rail cars full of whatever they want to call it," she said.

Instead, the Browns and their neighbors wonder why the cars can't be stored farther south, toward the landfill, away from residential areas.

"The garbage - get it out of town," said Sharon Brewer, who can see and hear the trains from her front porch on the opposite side of Williston. "Or make something where they can take it right into the dump."

Fostoria and Seneca County officials said they're working on solving the issue with the landfill and CSX.

A meeting among the city, the county, the township, the landfill, and the Ottawa-Sandusky-Seneca Solid Waste District has been scheduled for Thursday.

Mayor John Davoli said he visited the site recently, saw debris-filled railcars stopped behind the Browns' yard, and noticed "a damp, musty smell."

The mayor said he spoke to Dave Miller, the landfill's superintendent, who told him only construction debris is being moved by rail into the facility.

"He assured me that all the material they have gotten there so far is all construction and demolition materials," Mr. Davoli said. "It's not rotten banana peels or that kind of thing."

The mayor said he brought the matter to the railroad's attention at the time of his visit, "and they moved the trains pretty quickly."

CSX spokesman Jane Covington said the railroad is working to address the problem. She noted that yesterday afternoon, five carloads of "wood and wallboard and that sort of thing" were parked on one of the tracks behind Williston.

"We are trying to be sensitive to the neighbors' concerns, and the yardmaster is doing the best job that he can of keeping the cars at the opposite side of the [rail] yard, when he can," she said. "This afternoon, he wasn't able to get them to the other end of the yard, but tomorrow morning, they'll be gone."

Joseph Schock, a Seneca County commissioner, said the landfill is building a rail siding at the site "to hold these cars until they're ready to be dumped."

That or some other alternative needs to be found, he added.

"I have a problem if they're going to be parking cars full of garbage behind people's homes," he said. "That's not acceptable. There's got to be a better way."

Contact Steve Murphy at:


or 419-724-6078

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