WARREN TOWNSHIP Meeting targets odor problem
More than 100 people attended the meeting to convey their concerns to state and federal officials.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
LEAVITTSBURG -- It will likely take several months before state and local officials issue a report determining if any health risks are associated with hydrogen sulfide levels wafting through Warren Township.
Officials from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency met with residents Tuesday at the Johnson Community Center about their concerns.
For several months, residents have complained of a stench of hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs and can be harmful at levels of high or prolonged exposure in enclosed areas.
Officials have previously pointed to Warren Recycling Inc., a construction and demolition landfill on Martin Luther King Avenue, as the odor's source. But subsequent reports have said the facility is only one possible cause.
Tuesday's meeting was scheduled in response to a letter the attorney representing the township and the school board sent to several agencies asking for assistance.
Atty. Sam Bluedorn, who represents Warren Recycling, hopes the assessment determines the cause of the problems.
"Hopefully this will get to the bottom of what is causing the problem and identify it," he said.
Beverly and Condridge Smith have lived in their Risher Road house for 28 years. They considered selling to move closer to Youngstown but worry that the problems they're experiencing with the smell will hamper that.
"I've been having problems with my throat and we have well water that we haven't been able to drink," Beverly Smith said.
The problems started three to five years ago, she said. State and federal officials said the meeting is the first step in a lengthy process.
"Is the smell people are complaining about caused by hydrogen sulfide and is it at a level where it may be harmful if people are exposed to it?" said Clayton Koher, of ATSDR's Chicago office. "Those are the questions we're attempting to answer."
Officials from the state and federal agencies planned to talk to residents, gathering their concerns. More than 100 people attended. After talking to residents and determining where they live, when they detect the smell and if they've experienced any health problems, the agencies will gather environmental data.
State and Warren city officials have said hydrogen sulfide levels have not exceeded what's deemed harmful by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Industrial Commission. The recycling facility is in the city limits.
Warren Recycling paid MS Consultants Inc. of Youngstown to place monitors at different locations in the township, including LaBrae High School and Leavitt Elementary School, to log the hydrogen sulfide levels.
Warren Township and the school board selected the company to do the monitoring.
MS Consultants reported that the facility could be one of the sources of hydrogen sulfide but said it may be coming from other sources such as residential trash and debris burning, lawn mowing equipment and open ditches containing raw sewage from failed septic systems.
Some of the monitors showed brief spikes in the readings that leveled off after a few minutes.
That data may be used by the agencies in its assessment and it may decide more information is needed, Koher said.
But the study may not determine the cause of the odor, he said. The agencies will report their findings back to the community and additional meetings may be scheduled, but Koher said it may take several months to complete the assessment.
ATSDR isn't a regulatory agency. The assessment will try to determine if there are health effects that could result in illness to members of the community, Koher said.
"This is a big turnout," he said. "Obviously there's a concern in the community."
Lydia Burger, one of the members of Our Lives Count, a citizens group formed to address the concerns, thinks the meeting is a positive step. She hopes the high turnout shows health officials how seriously residents are taking the problem.