COLERAIN TWP, Ohio - People living near the Rumpke landfill attended an Ohio EPA hearing Monday night where they challenged the company's proposal to expand its odor control.
Rich McVay, a Colerain Township resident and president of Property Owners Want Equal Rights, says Rumpke is trying to mask the odor and not addressing the bigger problem causing it.
"They say they're trying to be good neighbors, but they're breaking the law," McVay says of Rumpke. "Ohio law says an organization that runs a landfill can't cause a nuisance."
The company and residents agree that odor has increased since a disruption began on the north end of the landfill in 2009. The company says there was a "reaction" 100 feet below the surface. It's not a fire, Rumpke says, and they don't know what caused it.
"It's not a fire as most people think of a fire," says Melissa English of Ohio Citizens Action, a group that has fought Rumpke's attempts to expand the landfill. "It's a thermal reaction consuming material and leaving instability in the waste pile."
McVay says in the waste industry it's called a "sub-surface fire."
"What probably happened is Rumpke was trying to draw gas out of the landfill and now they have a leakage problem, and it's spread out to almost 60 acres," McVay said. "They covered it with a rubber mat to try to keep the odor from coming up.
"But over the last two years, the Hamilton County Health District says odor complaints have gone up 400 percent, and three-fourths of those are from the landfill. The increase is not about garbage, it's about leakage as a result of a sub-surface fire."
Rumpke wants to triple the amount of deodorizer it has been using to try to contain the odor and is asking for permission from the Ohio EPA. The company says it would spray 2.7 million gallons of water mixed with 2,741 gallons of deodorizer each month.
Rumple says the deodorizer poses no health risks and is made from essential oils from plants - mainly fruits and vegetables – and is similar to household deodorizers.
"Science and research indicate this is the best option at this time," the company said in a release.
English calls it "an attempt to mask the odor because they can't solve the problem. Will it work? I don't know.
"The community is upset because they're not addressing the problem and that's the best idea they can throw at it," English says.
Without a way to stop the reaction from causing the smell, Rumpke says adding more odor neutralizer is the best they can do.
"We want nothing more than to end the reaction, we have spent millions of dollars, thousands of man hours, working on this and we're not going to stop until we find that solution," said Amanda Pratt, director of communications for Rumpke.
McVay says he wonders why other landfills can operate without odor and Rumpke can't.
"Rumpke is out of control," McVay says. "They need to get a new team - a team of experts - but they're not going to do it because it's a family business."
McVay says he lives within 2 miles of Rumpke and he doesn't smell the odor every day.
"Some residents smell it two or three days a week," he said. "Some people south of Rumpke report that they see it rolling into their neighborhood. They have to go inside and turn on the air conditioner."
Many residents at Monday's meeting expressed concerns about possible side effects of the neutralizer spray. Officials with the Ohio EPA told residents it's used all over the country, and they don't see a problem with it.
"In addition to our regular staff our toxicologist has looked at this material and he says he doesn't see any problems, there is nothing that raises any concerns for him," said Dina Pierce with the Ohio EPA.
The Ohio EPA will rule on Rumpke's request to use more odor neutralizer within the next few weeks.
Officials say there is still no indication of when the reaction causing the smell will be taken care of.
The meeting was held at the Colerain Township Senior Center on Springdale Road.
See Rumpke's Odor Control Report at http://www.rumpke.com/docs/default-document-library/rsl_odorcontrol2013.pdf