- Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign a bill this week that would give the state Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) new authority over construction and demolition recycling sites and limit the potential for expensive clean-up situations, as reported by Cleveland.com.
- Currently, the Ohio EPA has no direct jurisdiction over C&D recycling facilities. The law would give the agency licensing and approval powers. It would also require facilities to demonstrate financial capabilities for a site clean-up and allow the EPA to enforce that with court approval.
- The EPA's recent decision to spend $6 million on cleaning up the Arco Recycling facility in East Cleveland has brought this issue to the forefront. Residents had been complaining for years about debris piles that reached four stories high in some cases, but the EPA had no authority to regulate Arco's operations. An EPA spokesperson told Cleveland.com that the company was a "bad actor" and "the poster child for why we wanted this provision."
This bill would also give the Ohio EPA new authority over public water systems and the disposal of sediment dredged from waterways such as the Cuyahoga River. It has received endorsements from the Port of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and a C&D trade group for a variety of reasons.
The Arco situation highlights the delicate regulatory balance between ensuring recycling facilities create economic benefits without posing environmental hazards. Local officials were excited about job creation potential when they approved the sale of city land to Arco in 2015, but the site has essentially become an open dump with just enough recycling activity to skirt the Ohio EPA's solid waste authority until now. Earlier this year, the state moved to shut down the facility because it was seen as a hazard to nearby residents. Initial air quality tests found elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide at the time.
C&D recycling, like any portion of the industry, can hold great potential when done in a safe and efficient way. While additional regulation can sometimes be perceived as burdensome, the industry support for this bill is a sign that giving the Ohio EPA new authority may help create a more level playing field rather than a limited one.