CINCINNATI — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sued Evans Landscaping owner Doug Evans in March, accusing him of open dumping and illegal disposal of construction waste at three facilities in Hamilton County.
Despite the lawsuit and threat of $10,000-a-day fines, county health inspectors say Evans continues to violate state laws.
The latest violations came after a Dec. 2 visit to his facility at 4229 Round Bottom Road in Newtown, where Hamilton County health inspectors cited him for improperly storing old tires and municipal solid waste.
“You must properly dispose of all unacceptable solid waste and any other prohibited materials at a licensed disposal facility … Failure to do so may result in referral of this case to the environmental division of the office of the Hamilton County prosecuting attorney,” according to the violation notice.
Inspectors visited the facility on the same day that prison officials sent Evans back to Cincinnati – Dec. 2. He was released from prison after serving six months of a 21-month sentence for minority contracting fraud and is now being monitored through home confinement until November 2022.
Through a public records request, WCPO obtained all notices of Evans’ county health violations through 1997.
Those records show that inspectors cited “reoccurring problems,” with the burial of waste, open dumping, scrap tires, illegal disposal of construction and demolition debris, and leachate runoff, at times into the Little Miami River.
“This is something that really was a concern to us,” Yost said in a recent interview with WCPO. “It’s not just about clean air and clean water. The stuff you put on land has a tendency to get into the air and the water, and particularly ground water.”
Filing civil complaints is a last resort, and Yost said his office tries to work with citizens to get them into compliance. But that didn’t work with Evans.
“We were just getting no cooperation at all and we had to go to court,” Yost said.
In a statement to WCPO, Evans’ attorney, Andrew Kolesar, wrote, “Evans Landscaping always attempts to comply with environmental laws and regulations and to address agency concerns. Evans Landscaping intends to work in good faith to resolve the state’s current enforcement action.”
The state’s civil lawsuit against Evans has been seven years in the making.
Former Hamilton County Commissioner Timothy Ingram wrote a letter to then-Attorney General Mike DeWine on July 1, 2014, asking him to file a civil complaint against Evans if they could not reach a settlement within one year. He cited 11 violations for open dumping of solid waste and illegal disposal of construction and demolition debris dating back to 1997.
When Yost became attorney general in 2019, he said his office tried to work with Evans to resolve the violations.
“Once we were aware of it in my administration, we did the normal work with the EPA to try to help the property owner get into compliance,” Yost said. “We never come in and sue you the first moment we see something wrong. The idea is – we want compliance.”
“When the property owner won’t work with you, then you’ve got no choice but to go to court,” he added.
Yost filed his suit against Evans and his holding companies in March, which is set for trial in August before Common Pleas Judge Jody Luebbers.
Then Ohio Environmental Protection Agency sent a referral letter to Yost in June 2021, also asking him to file a complaint against Evans for similar violations.
This isn’t the first time that the EPA has targeted Evans.
In 2014, Evans agreed to pay $300,000 in fines to settle a complaint with the Ohio EPA over air pollution violations. He also agreed to a $100,000 tree-planting project to serve as a natural windbreak for dust and emissions from his stonework, gravel and sand operations in Hamilton and Clermont counties.
Evans, 59, is a well-known entrepreneur on the East Side, who built a landscaping empire from a high school job hauling mulch from a pickup truck. He now employs 250 at operations that range from sand and gravel, equipment rental, snow removal, soil and firewood, ready-mix concrete, tree services and stone works.
But the part of his business that health inspectors have targeted repeatedly is the recycling of construction and demolition debris operation.
“This process creates useable materials such as scrap steel, aluminum, wood, crushed concrete/asphalt, bricks and copper from the demolition of homes and commercial buildings. Recycling of C&DD wastes is encouraged by the environmental agencies because it keeps valuable materials out of landfills and reduces the environmental impact of producing new materials,” according to Kolesar, who is Evans’ attorney.
But state officials accuse Evans of repeated violations at three of his facilities in Anderson Township: Evans Gravel on 78 acres on Mt. Carmel Road; 8361 Broadwell Road, where several warehouses are located on 36 acres zoned for manufacturing; and 4229 Round Bottom Road, where Evans corporate headquarters are located on 90 acres that abuts the Little Miami River, according to court and auditor records.
Since 2014, county officials have conducted over 20 compliance inspections at the sites and issued 17 notice-of-violation letters. They met with Evans many times to try to resolve the solid waste and construction and demolition debris violations at their sites. “Yet defendants have continued to illegally dispose of C&DD and solid waste at the three sites,” prosecutors wrote in their complaint.
Here is a summary of a few violations, according to records from Hamilton County Public Health:
- Jan. 29, 2015. Violation: open burning of solid waste. A Hamilton County public health official noticed smoke coming from Evans’ facility while driving through Newtown. Vice president of operations Jim Bailey escorted him to the area for inspection and said workers were cleaning out trailers for scrap metal and had started a fire to keep warm. Upon arrival to the area of the fire, the official saw no smoke or flames. He asked employees to use the excavator to pull the soil back, which reignited the flames and exposed the charred remains of 5 or 6 banquet-style plywood tables and the remains of a door.
- April 21, 2008. Violations: leachate management, surface water management, open dumping, illegal disposal of construction and demolition debris violations and storage of scrap tires. “A soil berm shall be established to contain compost leachate and run-off migrating off-site into the Little Miami River. A previous violation concerning this issue was documented in a notice of violation letter dated November 27, 2006 … under no circumstances shall scattered litter migrate off-site, specifically into the Little Miami River … proper management of segregated debris, such as car batteries and propane tanks shall also be implemented,” according to the notice of violation.
- Sept. 11, 2020. Violations: illegal disposal of construction and demolition debris, operate or maintain a construction and demolition debris facility without a license. “The improper management of clean hard fill and compost commingled with prohibited materials, along with the burial of waste, has been a reoccurring problem for the past twenty years … It was noted during the site inspection that prohibited materials had not been removed or repositioned. Additionally, substantial vegetative growth had occurred since the last inspection, indicating that materials had been unmoved and corrective actions had not been made. Additionally, an area of runoff from the pile of fine crushed concrete mixed with C&DD had a white sheen and resembled C&DD leachate … which is running off into surface waterbodies,” according to the notice of violation.
- March 26, 2014. Violations: open dumping, water pollution, litter, accepting prohibited materials at a compost facility. “Scattered litter consisting of plastics and solid waste was observed accumulating behind the recycling facility and along the slope of the Little Miami River … Additionally, during the inspection, it was brought to HCPH’s attention that incoming source separated leaves were being brought into the facility and mixed with animal waste … The litter and solid wastes along the back side of the facility and down the slope leading to the river must be cleaned and properly disposed of immediately,” according to the notice of violation."