Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio)
January 27, 2010
The possibility of aluminum dross problems at American Landfill near Waynesburg comes in a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Akron.
Named defendants are American Landfill Inc. and its parent company, Waste Management Inc., a Texas-based trash hauling-disposal giant.
Filing the suit last week were the Stark-Tuscarawas-Wayne Solid Waste Management District; a Stark grass-roots group, Citizens Against American Landfill Expansion; and two of its leaders, Jill Van Voorhis of Sandy Township and Vivian Baier of Osnaburg Township.
The so-called citizen suit seeks an order to force the companies to investigate and correct all the alleged violations at American Landfill and to fund a communitywide health study.
If the two companies lose the suit, they face penalties of up to $27,500 per day per violation.
“Waste Management American Landfill utilizes numerous EPA-approved safeguards to protect the environment and public health,” company spokeswoman Beth Schmucker said. “This includes regular testing and monitoring of groundwater, surface water and air. The claims in the lawsuit are groundless.”
American Landfill, off state Route 44, has rising landfill temperatures, fires and sinkholes — all evidence of aluminum-waste problems that have plagued Countywide Recycling & Disposal Facility in Stark County’s Pike Township, the suit says.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has “no evidence” of a major aluminum dross problem at American Landfill, agency spokeswoman Lynn Sowers said.
EPA staffers and Stark County Health Department inspectors have seen no signs of fire, smoke, odors, steam or subsidence at American, although the landfill has reported taking in aluminum wastes in the past, she said.
The U.S. EPA and the Ohio EPA have been working since mid-2006 to control the underground fires and odors at Countywide. The problem has been traced to underground aluminum wastes coming into contact with landfill liquids.
Countywide’s 88-acre tract with the problems has been isolated to keep the fires from spreading. The federal and state agencies are letting the fires burn themselves out, a process that could take years.
The 32-page suit that raises numerous health and environmental concerns at American Landfill was assigned to U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr.
The garbage district a year ago announced its plan to file the suit. Handling its case are D. David Altman of Cincinnati, a prominent Ohio environmental attorney, and Canton attorneys Thomas Connors, Kristen Zemis and James Wherley Jr.
American Landfill is one of the largest landfills in Ohio for taking waste overall and for taking out-of-state waste. The city of Akron dumps its garbage in the 1,072-acre facility.
The landfill processes about 3,700 tons of trash a day, although it is permitted to handle more. It has available room to accept trash for 62 years.
The landfill faces an “imminent and substantial threat” of a fire, explosion, chemical reactions triggered by heat or landfill subsidence due to buried aluminum wastes, the suit says.
According to the suit, landfill temperatures — a sign of aluminum-waste problems — have been “steadily rising” since late 2001.
The companies repeatedly have asked permission from the Canton Health Department’s air department to operate the landfill at higher temperatures, the suit says.
Some temperatures inside the landfill approach 160 degrees, the EPA said.
The suit says the “continuing occurrence of fires and subsidences, sometimes known as ‘sinkholes’ at the facility, has been documented in the defendants’ and Ohio EPA’s files as well as in local fire department files.”
The plaintiffs charge that the two companies have “improperly handled and disposed of landfill wastes in a manner that continues to threaten the health and the environment in the surrounding community.”
The landfill also took in wastes beyond household trash, and such sludges, metals, brine and industrial wastes pose a greater threat, the suit said.
Landfill liquids and landfill gases illegally have been allowed to migrate beyond boundaries, the suit says, and groundwater, including at least two aquifers in the area, has been affected.
The water is polluted with ammonia, chloride, sodium, carbon disulfide, nickel and other metals and certain volatile organic compounds, the suit says.
There is also evidence of cancer-causing benzene and vinyl chloride in toxic air releases, the suit said.
Only 25 percent of American Landfill has a synthetic liner — with the other 75 percent having only a clay liner.
The landfill collects and hauls away the liquid runoff from the lined portion.
The big concern is that the leachate from the unlined landfill areas, which date to the 1970s before liners were required, is escaping into the aquifer under the landfill.
The suit says the full extent of the contamination around American Landfill is not yet known and additional testing is needed.
The Ohio EPA has no evidence of groundwater problems linked to leachate from American Landfill, EPA spokesmen Doug Dobransky said.
There was a small contamination problem at one well in 2002-2003. That problem was corrected and the groundwater was treated, he said.
The quality of the groundwater near American Landfill is poor but there is no evidence the landfill is responsible, he said.
In 2005, the EPA indicated the problem was caused by brine, or salt, from nearby gas and oil wells, a view the grass-roots group and its experts dispute.
Since last May, the company and the EPA have been assessing benzene and arsenic levels in two water wells. Two new wells will be installed soon to determine if those pollutants are coming from the landfill, Dobransky said.
In July 2006, the Ohio EPA approved an expansion of 160 acres laterally and 178 acres vertically at American. That expansion has been appealed to the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission, where a decision is pending.[/cleeng_content]