PLAIN TWP.: By a narrow vote, the Stark County Board of Health today approved issuing a 2009 operating permit for a landfill that has had fires and odor problems.
The action will enable Countywide Recycling & Disposal Facility in Pike Township to continue accepting trash from Northeast Ohio.
The health commissioners agreed by a 4-3 vote to allow Republic Services of Ohio, the company that owns and operates the 258-acre landfill, to keep putting waste into Cells 8B and 8C for another 45 days before new 22-acre Cell 16 will open. Cell 16 won final Ohio Environmental Protection Agency approval Dec. 31.
Supporting the move were board members Terrance Seeberger, Connie Holmes, Karen Hiltbrand and Cary Feller. Opposed were James Reccio Jr., Lori Mertes and Phillip Francis.
The company was pleased with the vote, said landfill general manager Tim Vandersall.
Club 3000, the grass-roots group in southern Stark and northern Tuscarawas counties, was disappointed with the outcome.
Spokesman Dick Harvey told the board that it should reject the 2009 permit because the landfill is still on fire, is out of compliance with its permits and should be shut down as a safety threat.
The Stark County action is linked to a not-yet final consent decree.
Under that plan, first reported in December, the Ohio EPA and the U.S. EPA, not the Stark County Health Department, will oversee the landfill's original 88 acres where problems resulted from buried aluminum wastes coming into contact with landfill liquids.
The health department will oversee only the newer areas of the landfill where no problems have been reported.
The proposed settlement also calls for Republic Services to pay a $10 million fine to the Ohio EPA to resolve all pending environmental violations at the dump.
But that separation has not yet been completed, and that triggered 90 minutes of debate at the health board meeting.
The Stark health board took no action on Countywide's request to get its long-delayed 2008 permit. That approval will only come after the settlement is finalized, perhaps in several months, officials said.
The proposed settlement, negotiated with the help of mediator-attorney Paul Mastriacovo, stems from a November 2007 lawsuit filed by the company. The move came after Stark County Health Commissioner William Franks indicated that he would recommend against giving the firm a 2008 license to keep operating the Countywide dump because of its problems that started in late 2005. The company was allowed to keep operating while the suit was in court.
Stark County Common Pleas Judge Richard Reinbold, who recently retired, had pushed the sides to use a mediator to resolve the case. The proposed agreement was read in court on Nov. 10.
Today, work resumed at Countywide to build a firebreak by excavating buried trash to prevent underground fires from spreading beyond the original 88 acres.
That work, ordered earlier by the federal and state EPAs, will require moving 400,000 cubic yards of buried trash to create a V-shaped valley between Cell 5, where problems have been reported, and the newer Cell 7, where no problems have been found.
That $6 million firebreak project, paid for by Republic Services, will require removing trash from a 700-foot-by-400-foot area up to 80 feet deep. That's enough trash to fill Akron's Rubber Bowl nearly twice. The work is to be completed by late spring.
Digging up buried trash to create a firebreak raises concerns because there's a risk of explosion from methane gas and the ignition of larger fires when oxygen reaches smoldering trash. Odors are expected to be a big problem for neighbors.
The landfill is one of the largest in Ohio and it takes about half of Summit County's garbage.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.