A chorus of township trustees and landfill neighbors protested a proposed 25 percent cut in funding for county health- department inspections at and near two Mahoning County landfills and five closed ones.
“Recycling is important. So is the public safety. ... To put public safety with landfill inspections and well-water testing as a lower priority than recycling is irresponsible,” said Jodi Kale, a Berlin Township trustee and secretary of the Mahoning County Township Association, during a public hearing Tuesday at the Covelli Centre.
More than 50 people attended the hearing concerning a 15-year update of the county’s solid-waste management plan, which was before the seven-member solid-waste policy board.
The proposed plan cuts the county recycling division’s annual allocation for inspection of active and closed landfills and testing of well water near them from $400,000 to $300,000 beginning in 2015.
Recycling officials have said they are budgeting in response to a decline in landfill-dumping revenue as dumping decreases and reuse and recycling increase.
They add that recycling is a mandated recycling-division function, but supporting health- department activities is not.
Disposal-fee revenue has fallen 20 percent from more than $3.5 million in 2003 to just over $2.8 million in 2011, said Jim Petuch, county recycling director.
The policy board will meet again at 9 a.m. Oct. 30 in the county board of elections conference room at Oakhill Renaissance Place to consider the plan further.
“We are very negligent to the health of the public if we do not service these landfills” with regular inspections and tests, said Margot Baird of Crory Road, Canfield, who lives within three-quarters of a mile of two closed landfills.
“It’s a very serious issue,” Baird said. “They need to be monitored. Just because they’re closed doesn’t mean they can’t do a lot of damage.”
“It’s our air. It’s our water,” said Mary Rosario of Springfield Township, who called for continued funding for well-water testing near landfill sites. “Once there’s a problem, you cannot go back,” she added.
The Mahoning Landfill in Springfield is one of the county’s two remaining active landfills.
Health Commissioner Patricia Sweeney, a policy board member, said she endorses and practices recycling, “but not to the detriment of the public health and safety” of neighbors of landfills.
She said funding from the reduced budget “needs to be disbursed equitably across the programs.”
All 14 of the county’s township governments oppose reduction of landfill inspection funding, said Dave Mannion, a trustee of Smith Township, where the Central Waste landfill near Alliance closed in June.
“I would just beg for your common sense in this,” Mannion said, adding that people living near that landfill are well-water dependent and have no public water-supply lines.
“Leave the funding alone for the testing” of well water near landfills for potential contamination, urged Mark Naples, a trustee in Poland Township, home of the active Carbon-Limestone landfill.
When Naples asked whether the unanimous opposition of the townships is officially on the policy board’s record, Petuch and county Commissioner John A. McNally IV, who is policy board chairman, said it is.
Even Michael Heher, Carbon-Limestone landfill manager, asked the board to “consider keeping the funding of the health department at its current level.”