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3 lawmakers unite in effort



Published: Sat, February 12, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The legislators don't want the state or Valley to become a dumping ground.

WARREN -- In the front yard of a small home, across the road from what some consider a behemoth of bad business, bad government and bad environment, three Northeast Ohio lawmakers gathered Saturday to present a united front for controlling landfills.

State Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty, D-32nd, with State Reps. Sandra Stabile Harwood of Niles, D-65th, and Randy Law of Warren, R-64th, faced the landfill at Warren Recycling and declared they will work together to pass three bills designed to exert greater control over companies that accept construction and demolition debris.

What the debris is

The debris is waste created during building, renovation and demolition projects. Current regulation is weak, say the three lawmakers, and contributes to environmental and health threats such as ground-water pollution, odors from hydrogen sulfide and underground fires.

The Warren Recycling landfill has been a sore spot for many in the city and Warren Township for several years. People have complained of a rotten-egg stench from the facility that they say is making them sick, and others have been concerned about whether the debris was harming the water and land, as well.

From lawmaker

Law cited those health concerns and a tainted water source tracked to the landfill and said "common decency" should have prevented its opening in the first place.

He will introduce a bill, with support from Harwood and Dann, "to make sure what has happened here won't happen again" in Ohio.

His bill would make Ohio's director of environmental protection establish rules as stringent for construction and demolition debris as are those for solid waste. They are too light now, Law said.

"We have become a dumping ground for the East Coast," he said.

Stronger language

Harwood said she will reintroduce a bill she tried to get through last year, H.B. 259, but it would have stronger language this time.

The bill would establish stronger rules for choosing the sites of new landfills and for landfills that want to expand. These rules would include background checks, public hearings and financial assurance for cleanup once a facility closed. It also would establish acceptable distances from any new landfills or expanded landfills to water supplies, wetlands, parks and other natural areas.

The bill's language includes requiring sampling and analysis of ground water and lecheate samples, as well as testing for heavy metals.

These, too, are issues that have arisen over the years with Warren Recycling.

Harwood noted that Ohio has more than 70 construction and demolition debris landfills. She said she and her two colleagues have seen problems grow as the number of landfills grows.

"We are offering the Ohio General Assembly a series of reasonable pieces of legislation," she said, legislation that will give the state and communities tools to handle landfills in a meaningful way to ensure the health of residents.

Dann's bill, co-sponsored by Harwood, would stop the building of any new construction and demolition debris landfills for two years. It calls for a study during the moratorium to analyze those types of landfills and develop solutions.

Law, Harwood and Dann explained that they will work to build bipartisan support for the legislation.

Working together

"Columbus is rabidly partisan," Dann said, so the real story is the three working together to accomplish something for their constituents.

At the beginning of the press conference, the three stood at the entrance of the landfill, but company security appeared and forced them to move across the street. As they faced the Warren Recycling sign, the legislators called it "the Warren Hills" landfill, referring to the company managing the operation.

"I don't want to call it 'Warren Recycling'," said Dann, "because no recycling is going on there or ever did."

Law is hopeful that the team approach will bring real change.

"Out of the tragedy of this dump," he said, pointing across the street, "may come a safe system of regulating construction and demolition waste."




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