WEST HARRISON, Ind. — The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is investigating a citizen complaint that calls for the closure of the Bond Road landfill in Whitewater Township, due to rules violations by Rumpke Consolidated Cos., Inc.
The complaint, filed March 15 by Gary Hammerle of West Harrison, Ind., alleges Rumpke violated Ohio Administrative Code by failing to haul trash to Bond Road Site Inc. for periods of more than one year. When that happens, Rule 3745-27-11 requires landfill operators to initiate a mandatory closure, Hammerle argues.
“Hold them accountable and close the dump,” Hammerle said. “They’re in violation of the law. They need to close.”
Rumpke declined to comment on Hammerle’s complaint, which is backed up by public records showing Rumpke delivered no trash to the site in 2012 and 2013. On three occasions since then, waste deliveries were separated by periods of longer than 12 months, records show.
“As this is an ongoing investigation, there’s not a whole lot of detail that we can provide,” Rumpke spokesman Jonathan Kissell said. “We take matters of compliance very seriously. And we will fully cooperate with Ohio EPA as they conduct their investigation.”
EPA’s confirmation of the probe comes two weeks after Whitewater Township residents turned out en masse for a public hearing on Rumpke’s request to expand its use of its 575-acre landfill. It's currently authorized to receive up to 100 tons of municipal solid waste annually. Rumpke is seeking Ohio EPA permission to receive up to 1,500 tons daily, although it says it will start with 300-400 tons initially.
“This landfill is next door to my home and will adversely impact me and my family by affecting the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. It will also adversely affect my property value,” Hammerle wrote in his complaint.
A home builder by trade, Hammerle said he was aware that his 20-acre property sat next to a landfill when he built his dream home on Sand Run Road in 2004. But the landfill was so lightly used, he didn’t see it as a threat. Eighteen years later, his three-bedroom home holds three generations of his family, with room for new home sites as the family grows. A chicken coop provides fresh eggs. Three miles of wooded trails provides recreational outlets for mountain biking and four wheelers.
“I’ve dreamt of designing and building my house as a little kid,” Hammerle said. “I love it here. It’s a very unique property, close to town, close to my work, close to everything I’ve come to know and love.”
So, when he learned that Rumpke was planning to expand its use of the Bond Road landfill, he decided to do some research. Working with his wife, Amy, who is a paralegal, Hammerle set out to learn everything he could about landfill operations. He gathered public records from Hamilton County Public Health and looked up the rules, not only for landfill operators but for “persons aggrieved or adversely affected by a violation” of Ohio’s environmental laws.
EPA spokesman Dina Pierce said Hammerle’s complaint is being investigated, as required by Ohio Revised Code 3745.08. It requires a “prompt investigation” and allows the EPA director to dismiss the complaint, conduct a hearing or initiate orders or legal action to resolve the violation.
A fact sheet on verified complaints by the Ohio Environmental Law Center says they’re a low-cost way to call the EPA’s attention to an environmental problem. But they don’t “have the same force as a lawsuit” and “there is a risk that meritorious complaints will be denied because administrative agencies are either unable or unwilling to investigate the claim.”
Hammerle is talking to various groups who oppose the Bond Road expansion and is willing to pursue litigation if necessary.
“We’re fighting against goliath,” Hammerle said. “They have a lot of money, compared to our group here. But it’s something I think about every day.”