A judge in Hancock County Common Pleas Court found yesterday that a Findlay tire dump with an estimated 700,000 tires was not licensed properly and constituted a public nuisance.
Judge Reginald Routson ordered a default judgment against Brandman Corp. for open dumping, illegal scrap storage, illegal operation of a scrap storage facility, failure to notify the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and two nuisance charges.
Company owner Jerry Vestal was not in court to defend the case because he had been arrested in Wood County on an unrelated domestic issue. Because he was not available, Mr. Vestal was given a September trial date to determine whether he is individually liable for the cleanup.
“We're headed in the right direction,” said Mark Gribben, spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General's office. “This goes a long way toward giving the state enough tools to get that site into compliance and get it cleaned up.”
The Ohio EPA initiated the lawsuit after it was unable to work out a suitable cleanup plan with the owner. Dina Pierce, an EPA spokesman, said officials cited several problems at the facility that were not being addressed.
In a letter dated March 10, an EPA representative advised Mr. Vestal that the site was an “unlicensed and unpermitted solid waste disposal facility,” and that the volumes of tires on the land violated several codes.
The space between tire piles, known as fire lanes, also was inadequate.
“We had two main concerns, one being that it was a fire hazard,” Ms. Pierce said. “Also the mosquitoes weren't being taken care of. They hadn't been spraying for mosquitoes.”
Mr. Vestal could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Vestal's attorney, John Noble, said his client had been trying for years to dispose of the tires. He said Mr. Vestal purchased the stock of Brandman Corp. under the assumption the shredded tire business would be profitable. So he acquired the property where the tires were stored.
“Mr. Vestal does not have the funds to clean it up,” Mr. Noble said, adding that they are in negotiations with a landfill operation and are hoping for state financial help or grants. “It would take about half a million dollars to chip and transport the tires that are there.”
Mr. Noble said though the judge did not order any remedial action on the company's part, Mr. Vestal is continuing to try to have the tires removed. “Nobody wants them out worse than we do,” Mr. Noble said.
Ms. Pierce said she's not sure how lucrative the shredded tire business is, but there are more uses for the discarded items, including the lining of landfills and as cushioning on playgrounds. But even if the dump owners can't sell the tires, they can't be kept at a dump site indefinitely.
“The bottom line is, we want the problem fixed,” she said.