Oregon Mayor Marge Brown yesterday complained that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is not doing enough to crack down on what she claimed are persistent violations at the Envirosafe Services of Ohio Inc. hazardous waste landfill.
A settlement of $304,500 proposed by the Ohio EPA last month to settle 268 accusations of hazardous waste violations at the landfill will not curb improper management of the site, the mayor said in a statement.
Many of the fines are below the maximum amount permitted and should be increased, the mayor complained.
"It's not enough money to be meaningful. It's a slap on the wrist," said Tom Hays, an attorney for the city. "They need to be thinking about maximum penalties - something that's going to make sure this absolutely never happens again."
Envirosafe is the only landfill in the state licensed to accept commercial hazardous waste. It has been cited for numerous violations in the past, although the current settlement proposal covers the last two years.
Ohio EPA Director Chris Korleski offered Envirosafe the settlement in a letter dated Oct. 9.
The amount includes $38,500 for 58 violations involving failure to inspect and keep records on the accumulation of potentially contaminated liquid around a "containment" building where hazardous waste is processed.
The letter comes on the heels of a criminal indictment against a former Envirosafe employee for similar violations at the containment building.
Stephen Jacob faces a maximum punishment of four years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted of neglecting to inspect and pump liquid from the building, and for falsifying or inaccurately reporting inspection data.
"We know that the site is not safe because of this gentleman who's on trial," Mayor Brown said. "But fining [the company] is not going to make it safe."
Mayor Brown said money from the settlement should go to the city because it could be affected by contamination from the site.
She said the city would use the money to expand on legal action it has taken against the landfill.
Other violations covered in the proposed settlement include the company's purported failure to pump potentially toxic water to keep it from reaching city of Toledo raw water lines, which run through the landfill.
The EPA also cited Envirosafe for not protecting the landfill liner in the site's one active pit.
The violations are not thought to have led to any cases of environmental contamination, Ohio EPA Spokesman Dina Pierce said.
However, there is a risk that those types of breaches could allow toxins to escape into local waterways and groundwater supplies, she added.
Ms. Pierce said the Ohio EPA decided to offer a lump settlement because Envirosafe has built up so many violations over the last two years.
The proposed settlement includes orders that Envirosafe improve inspections and operations at the site. It does not require that the company admit to any wrongdoing.
That was not good enough for the city of Oregon.
Mr. Hays said the Ohio EPA needs to increase the fines against Envirosafe and consider suspending or revoking its permit. He said the company also should have to admit to the violations.
As well as the most recent infractions, the landfill received about 120 violation notices between 1984 and 2005.
There have been previous settlements between the landfill and environmental agencies, including a payment of $220,000 to the Ohio EPA by Envirosafe in 2000.
"Anyone looking at this track record would reach the same conclusion: The Ohio EPA needs to impose the maximum daily penalty for a company like this that refuses to comply," Mayor Brown said.
Oregon is conducting tests around the outside of the landfill to determine whether contaminants have leaked into city property. Results are expected in a week.
Envirosafe President Doug Roberts said the company is preparing its response to the Ohio EPA's settlement offer.
"We're looking forward to sitting down with them and resolving these issues in a short period of time," Mr. Roberts said.
"We've always had a very cooperative relationship with Ohio EPA, and we don't see this as being any different."
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