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GIRARD Substance found at tannery site



Published: Thu, September 6, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The issue isn't about money, a Washington, D.C., attorney says.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- The public is being cautioned to stay away from the former Ohio Leatherworks property on U.S. Route 422, where a large underground storage tank was found containing an unidentified red substance.

Mayor James Melfi said Wednesday the substance is contained but could be dangerous.

A tannery operated at the site for nearly 80 years but closed about 30 years ago. A 1995 fire destroyed much of the building.

Melfi said dangerous chemicals, including acid, were used in the process of stripping raw cow hides.

"We have always maintained the site is dangerous," he said. "We demand the owners clean it up."

Stopped work: Work to clear the 27-acre site began in late August but was stopped shortly thereafter.

Leatherworks Partnership hired Terreri & amp; Sons of North Jackson to monitor cleanup and handle asbestos abatement.

A spokesman for the North Jackson company said last week that Gordon Schaaf of the Annapolis, Md., partnership, hadn't made a deposit with the company for the work.

Schaaf did not immediately return calls.

Melfi said he received a call last week from Terreri & amp; Sons, saying it was pulling out because of nonpayment and informing him about the tank.

Cleanup was expected to take two to three weeks.

Payment: Melfi said work will resume when payment is made to Terreri & amp; Sons, which declined to comment.

Vicki Deppsich, project coordinator for Ohio EPA's Twinsburg office, said this morning the agency will continue to make itself available for technical support, but it is not overseeing the cleanup.

She said the EPA is not sure what the red substance could be.

C. Michael Tarone, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who represents the partnership in a foreclosure case filed by the city, said this morning the issue isn't about nonpayment of a deposit.

"It has nothing to do with money," he said. "That's silly."

The partnership has acted in strict accordance with Ohio's environmental laws, he said, explaining that cleanup is on hold while the partnership's application to carry on additional construction work is processed.

Foreclosure: The foreclosure case was set for trial this week in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court but has been continued until mid-November.

The city initiated foreclosure in 1999, saying the partnership owes it more than $200,000 in fines imposed after the city declared the property a safety hazard.

The city had thought it reached a settlement with the partnership earlier this year under which the company would have deeded the property to the city, but it fell through.

davis@vindy.com




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