Ten years after fire, not much has changed for Queen City Barrel owner Eddie Paul

'The good thing, we are pretty tough'

CINCINNATI - Queen City Barrel is long gone from Lower Price Hill.

Eddie Paul may never leave.

Paul was the owner of the container-recycling facility that many residents in Lower Price Hill know as an environmental calamity. It was an odiferous place that used caustic baths and an incinerator to remove chemicals from 55-gallon drums, which were then repainted and put back to use as shipping containers. After decades of odor complaints and environmental enforcement activity, the company's largest warehouse building burned to ground in 2004.

This photo of the Queen City Barrel fire was taken around 8 p.m. Aug. 19, 2004, from the empty apparatus bay inside Cincinnati Fire Department's Engine 17. Photo by Joseph Bredestege

Eddie Paul sold his land to the city of Cincinnati in 2006. He sold his company to private equity investors in 2007. But he never left Lower Price Hill.

In fact, Paul still runs the barrel-cleaning empire his grandfather started in 1927 from a building at 820 State Ave., two blocks west of the fire site. He works for the new owners, as Ohio regional manager for Industrial Container Services, Inc.

“I remember the headline saying Queen City burns down or something,” Paul said in a recent interview. “It didn’t affect Queen City Barrel. Didn’t affect the plant. Didn’t affect any of the areas other than the warehouse we had.”

Paul, 65, had been the company’s leader for 14 years when smoke started pouring from Queen City Barrel's 400,000-square-foot warehouse building at 6:30 p.m., Aug. 19, 2004. To this day, Paul is convinced a tenant, a pallet recycling company, started the blaze by failing to tend to overheated equipment. Cincinnati Fire investigators said the intensity of the fire made it impossible to identify how it started, or even precisely where. Their final 2004 report estimated the fire caused $5 million in damages.

Industrial Container Services Building.

Such a cataclysm might have sent other companies into oblivion. But Paul adapted, using former Queen City Barrel facilities in Lower Price Hill and Northside to sort and ship barrels to processing facilities Columbus and Louisville. Depot Street remains the home of Cargo Clean Inc., a former Queen City Barrel subsidiary that cleans larger containers.

“The good thing about it is that we’re pretty tough,” said Paul. “We were in an environmentally sensitive businesses to begin with. We know how to work through a problem and get to the right end.”

WCPO Insiders can read more what Paul has been involved in since the fire, how much the business was fined and how much he made after insurance settlements and from the city.

This profile is part of of the series Rising from the Ashes, in which WCPO remembers the Queen City Barrel fire a decade later.  We invite you to explore photos, an interactive timeline as well as articles about the Lower Price Hill neighborhood and the firefighters who battled the blaze at www.wcpo.com/QCBarrelFire.

PHOTOS: The fire, from the Cincinnati Fire Department's perspective

PHOTOS: The people of Price Hill


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About this Project

A WCPO team of reporters interviewed firefighters, residents, environmental experts; reviewed hundreds of pages of investigative records and EPA findings as well as analyzed Hamilton County death records. 

  • Dan Monk, reporter
  • Lucy May, reporter
  • Elissa Yancey, contributing environmental reporter
  • Keith Rutowski and Emily Maxwell, photographers
  • Mark Nichols, data specialist
  • Brian Niesz, multimedia producer/designer
  • Anne Hallilwell, interactive timeline
  • Maxim Alter, then and now graphic
  • Chris Graves and David Holthaus, editors