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Landfill discussion raising concerns

STEUBENVILLE — A newly formed company in New York is proposing to take over the Crossridge Landfill, make corrections to environmental concerns there and be allowed to open it to accept baled solid waste from out of state.

Nicole Balakos, Jefferson County Health Department health commissioner, said a closed-door meeting was held on Wednesday with representatives of Greenway Reclamation of Garden City, N.Y., health department board and staff, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, representatives of the JB Green Team, the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District and city and county officials.

The Crossridge Landfill has been the subject of ongoing litigation with the state concerning the lack of proper closure to the solid waste landfill and alleged environmental regulation violations at the site.

Balakos said it would cost millions of dollars to cap and close the solid waste section of the landfill and properly treat leachate, which is water passing through the landfill. The health department in August discovered leachate being pumped over a hillside at the landfill above Cross Creek.

Balakos said the Ohio EPA brought Greenway Reclamation to meet with local representatives to hear about early talks to fix environmental problems at the landfill. She said it would take a large amount of revenue to make the fixes, including capping and closing the solid-waste section.

“Most people aren’t aware of the environmental nightmare already there,” she said.

The former owner of the landfill didn’t have a bond to guarantee the closure, Balakos said.

Balakos said it would cost $100,000 an acre to close the landfill and another $50,000 an acre to monitor the closure for 30 years. She said there are nearly 60 acres which were permitted at one time.

Balakos said the Ohio EPA would license the landfill if it is reopened for solid waste, and the health department would monitor its operation. She said no application has been submitted by Greenway Reclamation to the Ohio EPA. If an application is made, the Ohio EPA would hold public hearings.

“The Ohio EPA is looking for ways to clean up the site. This is one potential solution. There are no easy answers,” she said.

Mark McClellan of Evergreen Environmental of Harrisburg, Pa., a consultant for Greenway Reclamation, said there are environmental concerns at the site, including leachate that is not being treated, the landfill not being properly closed and no bond to pay for the closure and monitoring. He said there are 45,000 tons of recycling material at the construction and demolition landfill on the site which must be properly disposed of in a landfill with an approved liner to prevent contamination of the soil and groundwater.

He said it has been made clear to Greenway Reclamation by the Ohio EPA that any future development of the landfill can’t happen unless there is a guarantee to remediate the existing environmental concerns.

McClellan said Greenway Reclamation has not made a final decision about pursuing permits from the Ohio EPA. He said Greenway Reclamation wants to have a clear understanding from the Ohio EPA and county officials about the expectations.

McClellan said the reality is the Ohio EPA and local communities don’t have the funds to pay for remediating the environmental concerns, adding there are numerous landfills in the state with similar environmental problems. He said Crossridge’s current owner, Joseph Scugoza of Steubenville, doesn’t have the ability to clean up the landfill, as evident by the ongoing litigation by the state.

“The only way the problems are going to get addressed is to find parties voluntarily willing to clean up and operate the landfill,” he said, adding the only way to fund the remediation is to get revenue by opening a new solid-waste section of the landfill.

He said there are benefits with Greenway Reclamation coming forward, including eliminating a public environmental risk; addressing a decades-old problem with no cost to local taxpayers; and bringing in jobs and businesses to the county. McClellan said the long-term financial commitment by the company won’t happen unless it gathers the support of local officials.

As to concerns already existing at Apex Landfill near Amsterdam, McClellan said no landfill should be operating as a nuisance.

He said there are proposals to bring in baled solid waste, wrapped in plastic to control odors.

“If a decision is made to proceed, we will comply with all the environmental regulations,” he said.

McClellan said Greenway Reclamation already has spent a considerable amount of money to this point. He said factors such as the $23 million in penalties against Crossridge by the state and numerous liens filed by businesses against the facility will have to be resolved prior to a decision being made.

“A lot of the pieces to the puzzle will have to come together. Greenway has to decide at some point whether to spend more money,” he said.

Mark Nelson, chairman of the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District, released a statement on behalf of the district on Sunday.

“Our local district is nonregulatory, but is very concerned as the site has a direct impact on our quality of life and health, as well as the quality of the air, water and soil in Jefferson County. The new landfill will be situated on the 1,015 acre premises of the former Crossridge Landfill on county Road 26. This site includes a 9 acre and 23 acre former landfill brownfield site that was never properly closed dating back to 1990. This property abuts the city of Steubenville corporation limits on two sides and is across the street from Country Club Estates,” according to Nelson’s statement.

Nelson stated the Ohio EPA “is in the process of fast-tracking an application.”

Anthony Chenault, Ohio EPA media coordinator, confirmed no application to open the landfill has been filed.

“All environmental issues at (Crossridge) would need to be addressed before Ohio EPA would sign off on the project,” he said. “While the agency understands the priority of this project, no shortcuts or fast-tracking would be permitted. If the steps taken are not protective of public health and the environment, Ohio EPA will not sign off on the project. The company is aware of Ohio EPA expectations if the project moves forward. At this point, discussions with the company are occurring at the state and local level.”

The soil and water district met Monday and finalized an eight-page statement which was expected to be read at today’s health department meeting.

The statement includes a comment that Vladimir Cica, the division chief of the Ohio EPA’s Division of Materials and Waste Management, said the Ohio EPA is trying to expedite this matter and get the landfill into operation by early 2020.

“The board is alarmed and concerned as to why the haste and whether or not all proper due diligence is being performed in the matter.”

The board also stated the odor from the landfill will impact many more people than the odors at Apex. Most of Apex’s odor complaints fall within a 5-mile buffer area of the landfill

“If the footprint of the 5-mile odor complaint buffer is overlayed onto the proposed Greenway Reclamation site, the buffer will potentially impact roughly 50,000 people, 35,000 of whom reside in Jefferson County. In short, it appears that the proposed landfill has the potential to impact more than half of the residents of Jefferson County,” according to the board’s statement.

The board stated the health department, under state law, is delegated authority by the Ohio EPA to administer and enforce the solid waste program, including issuance of licenses, performance and inspections and enforcement.

“The board of the Jefferson County General Health District has the ultimate say in whether a landfill will open and operate in Jefferson County,” according to the statement.

The statement adds that the health board is made up of appointed officials who have been selected because of their knowledge and experience in caring for the citizens of Jefferson County.”

Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile was at the closed-door meeting last week.

Gentile said he is “adamantly opposed” to a new solid-waste landfill in Jefferson County. He said one way to correct environmental problems at Crossridge is to support a new solid-waste landfill.

“I would like to see other options,” he said.

“We already have one landfill in Jefferson County. We don’t need another. Why is Jefferson County the place for East Coast garbage?” Gentile said.

Gentile said there are already odor complaints at Apex. He said Crossridge is near a more populated section of the county, adding it would cause property devaluations in the central part of the county.

Gentile also is concerned about the proximity of the landfill to the county airport. He said there are issues surrounding birds that are found around a landfill. He said there a corporate jets using the county airport on a daily basis.

Geary Bates, vice president of the county regional airport authority, said $40 million has been invested in the airport. The end of the runway is about 4,500 feet from the landfill.

He said state regulations require a separation of 10,000 feet between a landfill and an airport. He said federal regulations are six miles.

“The EPA shouldn’t even be thinking about this. Can you imagine what happens when a bird gets sucked into a (jet) engine?” he asked.

He said the Federal Aviation Administration could come in and shut down the airport if the landfill is expanded.

The soil and water conservation board also noted that William F. Rinaldi of Scranton, Pa., who attended the closed-door meeting, is one of the principals of Greenway Reclamation, and was the founder and president of Tunnel Hill. Tunnel Hill owned and operated Sunny Farms Landfill in Seneca County and Tunnel Hill Reclamation Landfill in Perry County. From October through December 2018, the public made 276 odor complaints against Sunny Farms Landfill. The Ohio EPA took enforcement actions against the landfill in January, according to the soil and water conservation statement.

Tunnel Hill has been sold to an Australian-based company.

While the sale was under way, the Seneca General Health District Board gave notice that they would not be renewing the license to operate for Sunny Farms. Macquarie, as the new owners of Tunnel Hill, agreed to pay $1.71 million in civil penalties to resolve alleged violations of past water pollution, solid waste and air pollution control laws, according to a release from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Class-action lawsuits have also been filed against Sunny Farms by the citizens within a 10-mile radius of Sunny Farms.

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