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County landfill fined $500,000 for stench


ELYRIA — The Lorain County Landfill will pay $500,000 in fines as part of a deal with the state over odors emanating from the New Russia Township facility that have been the source of complaints from neighbors.

Bio Energy, which converts methane gas from the landfill into electricity, will pay $50,000 in fines as part of a separate agreement also reached Tuesday.

The consent orders with both companies were put into place after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit against the landfill and Bio Energy in Lorain County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday.

The lawsuit indicated that the fines could have been higher, with the companies facing potential fines of $10,000 per day for some violations or $25,000 per day for others.

“It could have been worse,” Rick Kostelnick, division manager at the landfill, said. “That number was negotiated with the state of Ohio by our corporate people.”

The agreements come after years of efforts by Republic Services, which owns and operates the landfill, to get the odor under control, Kostelnick said.

“We’ve done extensive amounts of drilling and gas extraction system improvements,” Kostelnick said.

He said the landfill now has 207 gas wells that siphon off methane gas and pipe it into machines that burn it for electricity. The number of wells will continue to grow because the landfill will keep getting bigger, he said.

Kostelnick also said that Republic now employs people whose job consists of monitoring the gas wells and it dispatches workers to the edges of its property to check for odors.

Since 2003, the lawsuit said, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has received at least 360 odor complaints.

The landfill reached a deal with the EPA in 2006 to evaluate its gas control system after complaints, but a news release from DeWine’s office said that evaluation was inadequate and complaints continued.

According to a 2010 evaluation submitted to the EPA of the 144 wells at the landfill at the time, 39 were not operating correctly, according to the lawsuit. Those wells weren’t repaired until February 2011, court documents said.

Lorain County Health Commissioner Dave Covell said Tuesday that complaints have dropped in recent years as Republic has taken steps to deal with the problem. But he said some complaints still filter in from time to time.

Because of the problems, the county hasn’t issued the landfill a permit to operate since 2010, although the landfill was allowed to continue doing business under the 2010 permit while the issue was sorted out. Covell said Republic will now be responsible for getting its permits from the past few years in order.

The news release from DeWine’s office said a 24-inch gas extraction pipe has been installed around the landfill to help control the problem.

“The signing of this consent order will result in an improvement of operations at the landfill and hopefully eliminate any future odor issues,” DeWine said in the new release. “It’s vital that sites such as these function in line with requirements to protect citizens and the environment.”

The lawsuit also accused the landfill of not taking adequate steps to prevent hot refuse from being dumped in the landfill. On April 14, 2010, the landfill caught fire, something a report determined was “most likely caused by a hot load from residential waste.”

Kostelnick said residential customers sometimes put hot ashes from charcoal grills into their trash and those loads can cause fires in the landfill.

The lawsuit also said there was an instance where the landfill failed to properly cover solid waste within 24 hours of it being dumped into the landfill. That requirement is designed to “control fire hazards, blowing litter, odors, insects, vectors, and rodents,” according to the Ohio Administrative Code.

The landfill also failed to properly control dust at the facility in March 2009, according to the lawsuit.

The consent orders will remain in place at least through 2014.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

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