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EPA: Abandoned South Fairmount foundry is full of toxic waste, and owners left the country

Posted at 6:10 PM, Jul 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-14 19:27:27-04

CINCINNATI -- Firefighters who investigated the defunct Lunkenheimer Foundry building in 2016 discovered a disaster waiting to happen: Over 1,000 barrels, many of them labeled flammable or corrosive, sat abandoned beneath the building's leaking roof. 

The Cincinnati Fire Department called on the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, whose in-depth analysis of the site discovered toxic waste -- including arsenic and cadmium -- in dire need of cleanup. Oil from underground storage tanks in the facility had already overflowed into Mill Creek during periods of severe storming, according to an EPA-commissioned report by consulting company Tetra Tech Inc.

Drew Dawson, who owns a business near Lunkenheimer Foundry, said he wasn't surprised to learn about the dangers the site posed. He had been trying for years to put official eyes on the vacant structure. 

"I emailed, dug around, trying to find anyone who cared about this building," he said. "No one seemed to at all."

That's not the case anymore, but the entities responsible for leaving hazardous waste behind don't appear willing to foot the bill for cleanup. The EPA ordered the building's two most recent claimants -- Cincinnati Valve Company, which rented the structure, and Star-Let Corporation, which owned it -- to remove the toxic materials by the end of the summer.

However, according to EPA on-site coordinator Steve Renninger, the owner of Star-Let left the United States years ago. A representative of the Cincinnati Valve Company claimed he could only answer questions through email, but the company had not responded to WCPO's inquiry by Friday afternoon.

The lack of response means the cleanup will start with taxpayer funding.

"We believe it's important to start this now," Renninger said. "We'll deal with cost recovery in the future."

Take a look at other local sites investigated by the EPA: