AKRON - The operating permit for a troubled landfill in Northeast Ohio should be suspended because of continuing problems with odors and underground fires, the Stark County health commissioner said.
A suspension would shut down the 258-acre landfill in southern Stark County until the problems are corrected. Republic Services, the Florida parent company of the landfill, was granted a temporary restraining order in Stark County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday to block the suspension and keep the landfill operating.
Countywide Recycling and Disposal Facility is one of Ohio`s largest landfills, handling about 6,000 tons of garbage a day from northern Ohio.
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials described it as "significantly malfunctioning" in February and identified it one of its top priorities after it produced foul-smelling odors for months.
Resident groups say they have been complaining since 1999 about the smells, underground fires and structural problems at the landfill.
In a letter Monday, county health Commissioner William Franks said that under state law, a landfill owner is required to have "adequate equipment, material and services available at or near the facility to control fire."
However, fires at the landfill are not under control and could take years to extinguish in the buried waste, a violation of state rules, Franks said.
The landfill meets all criteria for the renewal of the license and should be allowed to continue operations, the company spokesman Will Flower said. He said the company was "shocked" by Franks` recommendation.
"It makes absolutely no sense to me or any of our experts," Flower said.
In a statement, Republic Services said it will pursue "all legal remedies available to enforce the company`s legal rights and ensure the facility is granted an operating license."
The Stark County health board approved the landfill`s 2007 permit in May, after the company paid a $1 million fine. Countywide has spent $60 million in the last two years to combat the problems, Flower said.
The EPA supports the Stark County health board`s suspension of the license, EPA spokeswoman Linda Oros said.
Unless Republic Services schedules a hearing before the Stark County Board of Health, Franks said he will recommend the suspension of Countywide`s license at the board`s Dec. 12 meeting.