Oregon officials and residents told Ohio officials the hazardous waste landfill in the city should not be expanded, but they don't expect anyone to listen.
Envirosafe Services of Ohio Inc. is seeking to expand its active waste cell and to extend the facility's operation by 10 years. Draft permits for the proposals were issued by the Ohio and U.S. environmental protection agencies in mid-May.
At last night's public hearing at Oregon city hall, citizens and city officials cited problems including the landfill's proximity to Toledo water lines and Lake Erie, contamination from other parts of the landfill that spread more quickly than expected, and problems with the cell liner and collapsed leachate pipes.
"I don't know why they're still in operation," said Joanne Schiavone of Walbridge who, like many area residents, has been fighting against the landfill for years.
She and others have come to believe the EPA does not listen to them, and some former activists are giving up. One man called the agency the "Envirosafe Protection Agency." Mrs. Schiavone said she would not attend any more of the "circuses."
Dina Pierce, an Ohio EPA spokesman who attended the hearing, said the agency reviews all the comments. Public comments led to a change in the design of the expansion to make it safer.
She said the agency must follow state law and rules in deciding whether to approve or deny the permit. It can't deny the permit just because citizens don't like Envirosafe.
The Envirosafe landfill is one of three places in the state where the agency has on-site inspectors on a daily basis, Ms. Pierce said.
The expansion of the active waste cell south of York Road has been opposed by Oregon officials since it was first proposed in January of 2003.
Oregon Mayor Marge Brown presented the results of two studies of the landfill that the city commissioned, one from Bill Johnson of the engineering firm Arcadis and the other from Ohio State University Professor Charles Moore.
Both studies suggested denying the permit to renew and expand the facility, Mayor Brown said.
"It is unsafe, and it's a risk to our community," she said.
If approved, the active waste cell, called Cell M, would increase in height by 74 feet to a total height above ground of about 120 feet. The capacity of the landfill would increase from 2.38 million cubic yards to about 3.25 million cubic yards. The Ohio EPA estimated the expansion would extend the life of the landfill by six years to 2013.
The proposed expansion calls for Cell M to be able to hold at least 150 pounds for every 100 pounds the company buries, which is 50 percent greater than the minimally acceptable standard.
Not everyone agrees that the expansion is safe.
"There are very serious concerns about the structural integrity of Cell M," Oregon councilman Matt Szollosi said.
Besides expanding and extending operation of the landfill, the permits include modifications of the closure plan.
The city's written comments also ask that the Ohio EPA delete a provision in the permit that allows Envirosafe to seek reimbursement from the trust funds set aside for closure of the landfill.
"We must ensure that these funds are not at risk," Tom Hays, assistant city law director, said.
Some thought the Ohio EPA's decision should be easy.
"This decision should obviously be a no-brainer," said resident Robert Gillingham. "We obviously have a lot of people with no brains in Columbus."