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Jefferson County health officials being ‘strung along’ by Crossridge Landfill

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County’s Health Department is looking to the prosecutor’s office for help in getting its environmental inspectors into the Crossridge Landfill property for its quarterly inspection.

Carla Gampolo, part of the department’s environmental team, said the third quarter inspection results are due before the end of September, but their efforts to gain access to the property have been stymied.

Gampolo said they’ve been instructed by the courts to work with Crossridge owner Joseph Scugoza and his lawyer, Steven Stickles, to arrange mutually agreeable times for them to unlock the gates so they can go on site for the inspection.

“The law requires we go in every three months,” Gampolo told the board earlier this week. “We’ve reached out multiple times to Mr. Stickles in order to get in and do our third quarter inspection, it’s all documented, but we’ve either gotten no response, been told they’ll look into it or given a date that (doesn’t work).”

Mark Maragos, the department’s director of environmental health, said that, “Unfortunately, this is nothing new.”

“EPA is aware of the problem, they know we are being strung along as far as being able to do our required duties,” he added.

Gampolo said they’ve been documenting all interactions at the suggestion of the attorney general. “(Their) recommendation is that we keep the correspondence and that it would be used in court,” she said, reiterating, “We have reached out multiple times. We have that documentation.”

Absent Scugoza’s permission, Gampolo said they’d need the court’s help to get on site.

“Then I think we should do it,” board member Dr. Pat Macedonia replied. “The EPA has said more than once, ‘It’s not our problem, it’s your problem.’ If that’s the next step, I think we should do it. “

He urged Gampolo and Maragos to “ask the prosecutor for clarification. That way, we’re not washing our hands of this, we’re taking every action we can.”

It was during a site inspection in August 2019 that the department’s environmental division discovered leachate was being pumped from a tank and discharged over a hill above Cross Creek. Leachate is created when water passes through solid waste.

Common Pleas Judge Michelle Miller subsequently ordered Scugoza to ensure any leachate on site is disposed of properly at a wastewater treatment plant, and to provide biweekly receipts to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency as proof. She also ordered him to install a pump and flow meter for the leachate storage tank that would accurately record the volume of the liquid removed from the tank, and provide the data to the Ohio EPA.

Miller recused herself from the case several months later to “avoid the appearance of impropriety,” and Judge Timothy Hogan, a retired Hamilton County Common Pleas Court judge and former federal court magistrate, was assigned to hear it in her place.

But in December, Ohio EPA reported the landfill hadn’t provided the required receipts, nor had Scugoza installed the pump and flow meter Miller had ordered. Ohio EPA also had said it didn’t appear that the exposed waste and erosion trenches had been covered and seeded, as Miller had ordered, nor had the agency provided receipts showing where they’d taken the 1,500 tons per month of solid waste she’d ordered them to remove from the landfill beginning in September.

Since then, however, the state has alleged Scugoza put his assets, including the landfill property, into his wife’s name, triggering yet another lawsuit, this one filed by State Attorney General Dave Yost, accusing him and his wife of fraudulent transfer. The complaint alleges Scugoza transferred title to his properties to circumvent millions of dollars in fines and civil penalties. That case is still being litigated.

In the meantime, New York-based Greenway Reclamation has proposed reopening the landfill, correcting legacy environmental issues there and accepting out-of-state baled solid wastes, an idea that’s been met with stiff opposition from local leaders as well as community residents who say it’s much too close to Steubenville, Wintersville and Mingo Junction.

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