Cincinnati, OH

#TrashTalk is growing in communities frustrated by a lack of action by elected officials

The Cincinnati Post

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Counties with landfill rules do not place them in residential areas, like this one in Oregon.Wunderlich Securities, Waste Management

#TrashTalk is the hashtag being used for a growing community of citizens concerned about the impact solid waste (trash) has on their community and family. Many are concerned about the detrimental effects of landfills on the environment in Hamilton County. Others are concerned about the health implications. All agree the stench is a serious assault on their senses that affects their home values and their businesses contributing to a blanket of blight on surrounding areas that reduces their quality of life.

The county is quickly becoming the trash capital of the country. Currently the home of the 6th largest landfill in the country located in SW Hamilton County, in the residential suburbs surrounding Cincinnati. Rumpke is posing the expansion of, yet, another landfill in the area from 146 acres to nearly 600 acres. Increasing its intake from 1 truckload a year to 30 truckloads a day - just for starts. Already, their Rumpke site in Colerain is permitted to take in 12K tons of trash a day.

Mt. Rumpke began in the 1940s in Colerain Township on a mere 80 acres of land. It now encompasses a footprint of over 500 acres of landfill space in the middle of a Greater Cincinnati suburb, just a thousand feet from residential homes and abutting 2 major thoroughfares, I-275 and US Route 27, Colerain Avenue. The trash heap is so high it the highest elevation point in the area exceeding 1,000 feet above sea level.

Hamilton County is embroiled in a controversy to determine who has oversight authority over landfills in the county. The Ohio EPA has authority to issue permits. Their jurisdiction is limited to the operations within the landfill facility and oversee monitoring and compliance with the best available technology, BAT, as determined by the OEPA itself. Their regulations are their own and they have full authority.

However, every county within Ohio also has additional oversight through the Solid Waste Advisory Committee and they have authorized the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, BoCC, to determine under what local rules a landfill can operate. For over 30 years, the BoCC has deferred their authority to the "private industry," allowing landfill operators to make up their own rules. Essentially, it is the quintessential fox guarding the hen house.

And it has been a disaster.

Currently, scores of nonprofits and community grassroots organizations are weighing in. Citizens are demanding that the BoCC take control of the solid waste industry and protect the health, environment and quality of life of its residents. So far, the BoCC has balked. First, they asked for a legal opinion of the county prosecutor's office. After waiting over 4 months, the prosecutor provided the answer - to the wrong question. They determined that the BoCC does have the authority to "designate" solid waste flow within the county. Right answer. Wrong question. The question posed was, does the BoCC have the authority to pass and enforce rules? Specifically, can the BoCC mandate that landfill operations must be reviewed and approved by the BoCC?

The answer is evident. Yes. Every county surrounding Hamilton County requires that all landfill creation, modifications, and expansions must be approved by their own county BoCCs and based on the rules established by the county BoCC. Without the BoCC approval landfills are stopped in their tracks.

Each BoCC is permitted to write their own rules on where landfills will go and under what conditions. The BoCC can consider factors that the OEPA is not authorized to consider, such as the stench emitted from garbage, the impact on property values outside the landfill boundaries, the health implications and the adverse effects on the environment surrounding the proposed landfill or any expansion.

After months of meetings, presentations, the preparation of materials and the hundreds of emails and phone calls to the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, the BoCC, and the OEPA - it has all been for not.

Just #TrashTalk.

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Writing the stories not being told in other arenas. Focusing on Action Journalism, meaning news that creates am end response in how you perceive an issue, prompts you to act on the issue, and how to act effectively. "Am I my brother's keeper? The answer is "yes" stupid." I have no idea who was driving the car in front of me with that sticker on their bumper, but those 10 words changed the way I view the world and the part I am bound to play in it. Those 10 words made me ask, "what can I do?" I've been an advocate for over 2 decades and my psyche is centered on how I serve others. Now, I am publishing "Actionable Journalism," hoping to inspire others to step into the wind. The objective is to provoke reader action. Whether that action is changing a mind set or, if I provide enough informational confidence, that readers engage their communities. I seek to provoke the reader to act on the information provided. To trigger them to go beyond passive readership and evolving into an impacted reader. I hope to find 10 words that will inspire others to engage with action-ism.

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