STEUBENVILLE - City officials are working with the Cross Creek Township Police to catch people driving their four-wheeler vehicles through the former 88-acre city landfill and damaging the recently constructed wetlands.
"We paid approximately $475,000 to Environmental Management Systems of Groveport, Ohio, to have the two wetlands constructed as part of our agreement with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. We took down hundreds of trees to build a protective barrier around the wetlands. And in the last few weeks someone has used a chain saw to cut the trees so they could get into the wetlands with their four-wheelers," explained Law Director S. Gary Repella.
"Unfortunately these idiots are using the wetlands as a mud bog. We have seen tracks in both wetlands. They are running their four-wheelers through the leachate and water coming from the old coal mine. Then they take those four-wheelers home and track that material through their houses," said Repella.
VANDALS STRIKE — Four-wheeler tracks can be seen in the wetlands at the former Steubenville landfill near the Jefferson Airpark. City officials said the vandals trespassing on the property will be prosecuted if they are caught. - Contributed
"We are working with the Cross Creek Township Police Department to find these individuals. When they are arrested we will prosecute them. The Cross Creek Police recently arrested three people on four-wheelers near the old landfill. We will have the Steubenville police detectives talking to the individuals as our investigation continues," stated Repella.
"The animals at the old landfill won't go near the wetlands. But these people think its fun to drive through the recently planted cat tails and the wetlands. It is not a wise decision and we want it stopped," Repella said.
According to Kerry Zwierschke, a senior environmental engineer with Bennett & Williams Environmental Consultants of Westerville, driving through the wetlands and then tracking the material into homes is not a good idea.
"The property was deep mined and later surface mined from the 1930s to the 1950s. The city then developed a landfill on the mined-out site. So you have the water runoff from the old mine site and then the leachate from the landfill. I wouldn't want that material on my skin and wouldn't want my family or pets exposed to it. I wouldn't drive through the wetlands and would encourage people to stay away from the area," said Zwierschke.
"The OEPA gave us a year to install two wetlands at the landfill. We are directing seepage from the landfill and mine runoff to the wetlands where iron and minerals are removed. We hope to start creating the wetlands this spring so they will be finished by Oct. 31. But until the 88-acre landfill is permanently capped, the property will not be considered closed," explained Zwierschke at a March 2013 City Council meeting.
City Engineer Michael Dolak said the tree barrier had been erected to keep people away from the wetlands.
"These people used chain saws to open up paths and now we will have to spend more money erecting barriers again. The individuals riding their four-wheelers through the old landfill site are trespassing. I hope they realize they are breaking the law," said Dolak.