Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Public Health Order against North Canton Distressful & Costly to Taxpayers

Prepared Comments Made to
December 12, 2011

For the second time in the last ten years, the City of North Canton finds itself facing a governmental order to clean up a dump site where, for years, the city was open dumping solid waste in violation of state law. North Canton taxpayers will certainly be getting a lump of coal in their stocking this Christmas as the cleanup will require the expenditure of city funds and needlessly place added stress on the city’s budget.

In 2002, North Canton was mandated to clean up its own Dressler well field as a result of dumping practices that dated back to the 1980s. That cleanup cost taxpayers approximately $500,000.

Mayor Held, you were the City Administrator at that time and as administrator you oversaw the cleanup for the city. One would think that after overseeing the expenditure of approximately one half million dollars of public funds to abate illegal dumping practices that that experience would make an indelible impression and that thereafter you would make an extra effort to ensure the proper disposal of city waste material.

Apparently, no lessons were learned as open dumping of solid waste continued during and after the cleanup of the Dressler well field site. This appears to be the case as in a December 10, 2009, Repository report titled, “Cleaning up a mess in North Canton” it is stated “…City administrators say the two dump sites has been used for more than five years, while one former employee indicates the site has been used since the 1990s.”

The discovery of the illegal dumping of street sweepings began with a complaint from the Ohio EPA to the Stark County Health Department on October 6,2009. The original complaint cited two dump sites, one on a farm on South Arlington and a second site north of Portage Avenue on Freedom Avenue known as the Mathie property.

I have been told by city officials that the dump site on South Arlington has been cleaned up and that it was done in-house with city employees and city equipment. Mysteriously, no one in the city can provide to me information as to when and at what cost?

I would like to see documentation as to the man hours expended, the equipment used, and the cost to dispose of the solid waste at a licensed disposal facility.

I would also like to know why City Council has not asked for any accounting of the cost of cleanup of the South Arlington site.

The Mathie dump site is adjacent to North Canton’s water treatment plant as well as to a city well field. It also lies within the Zimber Ditch flood zone.

Two years have passed since state and county regulatory agencies have weighed in on the violations of state law regarding the illegal disposal of solid waste by the City. The Mathie property dump site was also identified as a wetland.

Fortunately for North Canton, the property was deemed not to be a “regulated” wetland as dumping apparently began before creation of the Clean Water Act in 1972. This ruling by the Army Corp of Engineers spares North Canton the cost of wetlands mitigation.

Consequently, North Canton will only be required to remove the street sweepings that were open dumped on the Mathie property. This is detailed in a November 16, 2011, “Public Health Order” from the Stark County Health Commissioner William Franks to City Administrator Michael Grimes requiring the City of North Canton to remove solid waste that was dumped in violation of state law.

The cost of the cleanup is on everyone’s mind but as of last Friday, Administrator Grimes would not provide any estimate to me of the cost.

In a November 25, 2009, interview published in the Stark County Political Report (SCPR) titled, “Clean Up of Street Sweeper Backfill Could Cost $100,000 Plus How Much in EPA Fines?” Mayor Held tells the Report that “…the cost of remediating could be $100,000….”

Mayor Held, I would like to know if your estimate of the cost of a cleanup that you gave to the SCPR two years ago is accurate.

A November 23, 2009, Repository report titled, “North Canton council won’t discuss dumping probe” stated, “City officials said they didn’t know that dumping street sweepings at the site would be a violation.”

Mayor Held, having formerly overseen the cleanup of a previous dump site here in North Canton as City Administrator as well as having held the position of Director of the Joint Solid Waste District for Stark, Tuscarawas and Wayne Counties since July of 2004, I am flabbergasted as to your professed ignorance regarding the disposal of solid waste.

In the November 23, 2009, minutes of City Council, former Council President Daryl Revoldt states, “…in addition to funding remediation, this council may consider other appropriate actions it deems necessary to satisfactorily resolve this matter and assure that a similar situation does not reoccur.”

I would like to know if this council is prepared to finally speak up publicly on what will obviously be a wasteful expenditure of taxpayer funds to comply with the Health Department’s “Public Health Order.”

Is this council prepared to speak to the failure of leadership by Mayor Held on this matter?

What line items on the budget will go unfunded to find the dollars needed to accomplish the remediation of the dump site?

Among the reasons the Stark County Health Department cites for its decision to issue a “Public Health Order” against the City are:

1) Street sweepings are defined as solid waste in O. R. C. and O. A. C.
2) North Canton City personnel attended training regarding street sweepings,
and should have been aware that sweepings needed to be disposed of in a
licensed solid waste facility.
3) The City of North Canton had previously been ordered to clean up street
sweepings that were open dumped in the late 1990s.
4) The waste is in the proximity of one of North Canton’s municipal water
supply wells.

The repeated failure by city officials to comply with state laws regarding the disposal of city wastes and the concomitant financial costs that the taxpayers of North Canton are forced to bear are an embarrassment to the community and distressful to residents. Furthermore, it raises deep concern about the caliber of leadership in North Canton.

Given that the Health Department’s “Public Health Order” against the City is nearly a month old, and the fact that citizens deserve to know the financial impact that the remediation will entail, and in the interest of transparency and accountability I ask that the full details regarding this issue be made available to the public without further delay.

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne