Thanks to all the people who sent emails demanding environmental and public representation, the Hamilton County Department of Environmental Services broke down and appointed Sharon Pope Lutz to the subcommittee created to propose rules related to the operations and siting of landfills in the county.
Lutz is a member of Oxbow, Inc. and Rivers Unlimited, two environmental organizations that have been vocal in the effort to promulgate rules beyond the minimum standards created by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and requiring commissioner approval to proceed expansion of landfills. Lutz lives blocks from the proposed site of Rumpke's newest landfill expansion in Whitewater Township and owns Green Acres Canoes, a favorite river recreation spot in the area. She is invested in the environment and the people in the area. Lutz says:
I feel honored to have been asked to serve and am looking forward to accomplishing many great things by serving on this subcommittee.
Both environmental groups are also involved in a new project proposed by Child Advocacy for Rights & Equity, Inc, and spearheaded by Dr. Christine Curran, professor at Northern Kentucky University,
[W]e’ll have at least two student groups from Environmental Toxicology working on research related to the potential impacts on the Oxbow area which will cover both air and water pollution."
Such project will provide independent, scientific information from which data may contribute to the base of knowledge decisions are made locally regarding landfill operations in southwest Ohio. The results of the study are due in late December.
For the first time in county history, a conglomeration of voices is being assembled to address the impact of landfills and proposing changes. The county must acknowledge the impact of having the 6th largest landfill in the country within its jurisdiction and the effects on the residents and environment. For over 5 months county staff ran interference preventing the issue from even being put on the agenda, claiming C.A.R.E.'s proposal was not permissible. Finally, 3 members of the committee took a stand in a memo dated September 13th, demanding that C.A.R.E.'s proposal be put on the agenda
to propose rules. Once aired, the Solid Waste Policy Committee voted unanimously to proceed in establishing a "subcommittee" and advancing rules for adoption by the full committee that would then be adopted by the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners.
Still, the HCES division has stacked the committee with county employees who take direction from their supervisors, refuses to appoint a representative for those who have been living with the issues of a landfill for decades, and certainly does not want C.A.R.E. on the committee. C.A.R.E. has ruffled a lot of feathers and refused to take "no" for an answer. C.A.R.E. rebutted every unfounded objection raised by the HCES with legal citations and examples of the same projects implemented in numerous other jurisdictions. The HCES and commissioners do not want a well-informed expert in administrative law knocking down the false barriers erected by the administration to limit the scope of work of this committee. Until C.A.R.E. introduced her proposal, everyone believed that the Ohio EPA was the sole authority on landfills. The program manager, Michelle Balz and director Brad Johnson had deferred to "the industry" to set the standards for operations in Hamilton County. C.A.R.E. is thrilled with Lutz being appointed to the subcommittee.
Next week, Ms. Lutz will be attending her first meeting of the subcommittee and she will be bringing decades of environmental stewardship and Whitewater family values to the committee meeting. There's a lot of people across the entire county counting on her to advocate for rules that will empower and protect the community while securing essential waste management practices.
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