- The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has issued an order of violation and shut down Arco Recycling, a construction and demolition debris facility, for storing waste in an open dump rather than recycling it. The EPA has ordered the company to remove all material from the site immediately, as reported by Cleveland.com.
- An environmental engineer has conducted air quality tests at the site, which is located in a residential area, and found hydrogen sulfide in concentrations two to three times higher than federal standards. The cause is believed to be rainwater mixing with gypsum drywall. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide can have serious health consequences.
- A local activist who brought in the engineer is pushing for a criminal investigation and further testing to see if area residents have been exposed to airborne toxins. The Ohio EPA has said it will consider further action once the engineer is willing to share his test results with them.
As is often the case with environmentally unsafe facilities in residential areas, this one had already been on the Ohio EPA's radar. Inspectors and health department officials had visited the site 27 times since 2014. Recent air tests for asbestos didn't detect any issues. Ongoing residential complaints did lead to an order from the EPA for Arco to reduce the size of its piles, but that seems to have gone unheeded.
Regulatory requirements for the site hadn't previously required full air testing because it wasn't a landfill, though officials now say that the owners were essentially operating it as one. Storing this type of material for an extended period of time rather than sorting it for disposal elsewhere as intended comes with a whole separate set of factors. As seen in multiple instances throughout the country, improper storage of material in such facilities can be a fire hazard and a risk to public health.
Regulating waste facilities of any kind in residential areas was outlined as an ongoing priority by the national EPA's former administrator and was part of a 2020 environmental justice agenda. Whether that will remain a national priority is unclear, but state and local officials will continue to be faced with this question of how to manage industrial operations in residential areas.