Lawsuit: Sharonville waste treatment facility exposing community to cancer-causing chemicals

SHARONVILLE, Ohio -- A group of Sharonville workers and property owners are suing a nearby waste treatment facility they say is exposing them to cancer-causing chemicals and irritating odors.

Twenty people filed the suit against Valicor Environmental Services Monday morning, alleging the company processed contaminated fluids that exposed them to noxious chemicals known to cause birth defects and cancer.

The dangerous chemicals were identified during tests conducted this year, the lawsuit states.

Valicor is a centralized waste treatment facility that operated under the name United Waste Water Services, Inc. before changing its name in October of 2012. The facility processes waste fluid like gasoline, kerosene, contaminated ground water and more.

The facility in the suit is located at 11807 Reading Road.

On its website , Valicor states it "is dedicated to be the leader in the waste minimization/waste management/pretreatment and centralized waste treatment service industry by focusing our environmental management system."

The company said it utilizes "the best available pollution prevention technologies to reduce the environmental impact of industrial waste."

But Valicor has been processing contaminated fluids since 2004 that have resulted in "at least 95 confirmed discrete offensive odor complaints" from community members surrounding the facility, according to the lawsuit.

Sharonville Health Commissioner Dennis Propes is no stranger to Valicor and said he has a stack of folders in his office detailing efforts to control the emissions.

He said he's even experienced the chemicals first-hand.

"I know the times that I've been up there where I've been able to smell the odors," Propes said. "I've had issues with sore throat...We need to take further action."

The city has gone back and forth with the company, but things have changed, Propes said.

Bill Gustavson, an attorney representing the 20 people suing Valicor, said the facility is putting more chemicals into the air than is normally allowed by environmental regulators.

"In addition to these threshold chemicals, there were carcinogens, there were hormone disrupters and other chemicals called teratogens, which really means those are chemicals that are known to cause birth defects," Gustavson said.

The group suing Valicor say they have been subjected to personal injuries including sore throats, tearing eyes, irritated, watery and burning eyes and nasal passages, nose bleeds, nausea, vomiting, breathing problems, headaches, skin irritations, sneezing, taste of chemicals, coughing and other symptoms like mental and emotional injury.

The lawsuit also alleges Valicor discharged the noxious odors intentionally, resulting in the intrusion of the surrounding community’s enjoyment of their “legal right to be free from invasion by noxious odors and dangerous chemicals, to be healthy, to work and enjoy their property.”

Southwest Ohio's Air Quality Agency investigator Brad Miller said there is an increased number of complaints about Valicor's environmental impact.

"I think about 60 percent -- 60 percent this year -- we've traced the odor back to the facility," Miller said.

Miller said there have been multiple efforts to try and improve the air quality around Valicor since 2004.

Just a few weeks ago, a new device was put into service, and Miller says air quality testing has indicated some improvement.

Attorneys for the group suing Valicor are asking for up to $150,000 in damages. The group is also demanding Valicor stop discharging its chemicals and odors into the air.

9 On Your Side's Tom McKee contributed to this report.

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