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Published: Tuesday, 10/20/2009

No immediate health threat detected in leak near proposed area casino site

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - The brownish-red fluid leaking from the proposed site of a Toledo casino might have an adverse impact on the Maumee River, but preliminary test results suggest it poses no immediate health threat.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency plans an in-depth review of the raw data that it received from one of its laboratories yesterday.

Raw results from a pair of samples taken on Sept. 24 of a highly alkaline substance on the south shoreline of the property and at the point where it mixes with river water indicate the presence of arsenic, chromium, copper, aluminum, salts, and a number of other elements.

But a number of those were known to be present on the property last year before the EPA issued a covenant-not-to-sue to the property's current owner, River Road Developments of Middletown, Ohio, following a taxpayer-assisted cleanup of the former industrial site off I-75 and Miami Street abutting Rossford.

Melissa Fazekas, spokesman for the Ohio EPA, said she could not say whether the levels found were beyond what would have been expected.

"There is seepage coming from the site into the river," she said. "The results may indicate some local quality impact where it is coming out of the bank into the river."

She said a more thorough review by EPA technicians will begin today, adding that she did not know when that review might be completed.

State Issue 3 will ask voters on Nov. 3 to authorize four Las Vegas-style casinos on specific parcels in Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. The Toledo site is on 44 acres formerly owned by Libbey-Owens-Ford and Pilkington North America. The property included waste-sand ponds from glass-making operations before the cleanup cleared the way for limited development.

The cleanup involved the removal and replacement of two feet of soil, creating a cap below which development cannot go. Any construction would have to be at grade level or above.

"Whatever the problem was, the property owner has made it clear in his discussions with EPA that it's fixable," said Bob Tenenbaum, spokesman for the Ohio Jobs and Growth Committee. "We've said before that we didn't see this having any impact on our plans, and this seems to verify that."

Brad White, owner of River Road Developments, could not be reached for comment. Ms. Fazekas said she did not know whether he had been told of the preliminary test results.

"Obviously, the most important thing is the health and safety of the people up there and the people who work at the casino," said Sandy Theis, spokesman for the Truth PAC organization fighting the casino plan.

"It sounds like it's too early to tell if we should be worried about those things or not," she said.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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