An EPA study will determine the extent of the problem.
WARREN -- A citizens group concerned about emissions from the Warren Hills landfill is trying to get its message across in a big way.
Our Lives Count has placed a large billboard ad at Chestnut Avenue and Youngstown Road (U.S. Route 422) Southeast.
It features five children wearing gas masks, with an odor-emitting landfill in the background. It states, "Our average day in the city" and "OurLivesCount.org."
The commercial landfill on Martin Luther King Boulevard Southwest has raised the ire of neighbors, who say the landfill's rotten egg smell of hydrogen sulfide causes health problems.
The billboard will be on display for a month, said Our Lives Count member Debbie Roth.
Loud and clear
"We're trying to make sure that the city hears us," she said, maintaining that it has been pressure from residents, not the city, that led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take action at the landfill site.
The city's health board, however, did deny the landfill a permit to operate this year. City officials also maintain that the Ohio and federal EPAs are the right agencies to oversee a solution at Warren Hills.
The billboard's message also ties into an effort by area legislators to strengthen statewide oversight of landfills. There are emission problems at other sites around Ohio, Roth said. "The entire state needs a wake-up call on this issue."
State Reps. Randy Law of Warren, R-64th, and Sandra Stabile Harwood of Niles, D-65th, and state Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty, D-32nd, are pushing proposals to tighten the laws for construction and demolition of debris landfills, to prevent another Warren Hills situation.
EPA study under way
The federal EPA has said it expects to spend up to $100,000 to collect data and samples at Warren Hills to determine the extent of contamination and the best way to handle it. The full cost of the cleanup won't be known until the ongoing assessment is done.
In February, the federal EPA ordered the landfill to put in place systems to substantially reduce or eliminate the hydrogen sulfide emissions.
Warren Hills has told the EPA that it doesn't have the money to tackle the project. Instead, the landfill operator is focused on talks with the Ohio EPA that would allow continued operations while incorporating the federal EPA's orders.
The operators of Warren Hills and the state have been trying to agree on terms and a final closing date of Dec. 31, 2008. In the interim, the landfill would be able to generate enough revenue and enough fill material to close in an orderly manner.