County: Funds short in landfill settlement plan

By Mike Sever Record-Courier staff writer Published:

After a decade in the courts, a final settlement over a private landfill in Rootstown is in sight. But the agreement has Portage County Commissioners voicing concern that cash being put up by landfill owners is not nearly enough to pay the bill to clean up the site. A consent agreement between the State of Ohio and Portage Landfill and Development company and its owners is before Judge John Enlow in Portage County Common Pleas Court. Once signed, the agreement would end a decade of litigation over the 99-acre landfill located south of Tallmadge Road, just east of Homestead Road in southwest Rootstown. The state filed suit June 25, 1987 at the request of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. As submitted to the court, the consent agreement requires landfill owners to pay a lump sum of $59,779 plus monthly payments of $250 for life; and allows the county solid waste district to sell off scrap metal from the site that has been appraised at more than $100,000. The money is to be paid into a trust set up to close and cap the landfill. The trust, and the landfill work, would be overseen by the Ohio EPA. The county and the county health department stayed out of the suit, at the request of the state attorney general's office, according to commissioners. The commissioners are concerned the agreement is inadequate to properly close the site which Portage County Health Department officials say is draining leachate from buried and partially buried trash into Breakneck Creek. Charles Ramer, Portage County Solid Waste Management District coordinator, Thursday updated the commissioners about Portage and another abandoned landfill in Rootstown Thursday. Commissioners also sit as commissioners for the waste district. "One of the things that concerns me is what may be seeping down through and into the ground water," Ramer said. "Since there are no wells out there we don't know what's going on. Maybe the best use of money would be to sink some wells and see what's going on," he said. Commissioner Chuck Keiper cautioned that the waste district doesn't have the money it would take to close and cap the landfills sufficiently, or to prosecute the owners beyond what the state has done. "The only available funds to fight the battle are Portage County general funds," he said. Commissioner Chris Smeiles blasted the state's handling of the situation. "I think the (Ohio) EPA has been negligent about this landfill and the A&B landfill. They and we have known about these for years, and they did nothing about it," he said. In his review, Ramer said more money would be needed to properly cap the landfill and monitor it. Commissioners said they intend to review the situation with the county prosecutor's office to see what steps may be taken. "We gave up no rights" to go after the owners of the landfills and other resources, Keiper said. "The EPA took bogus IOUs (for a trust fund to close the A&B site), and they should be held accountable for their mismanagement of the funds," he said.

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