It was a brave and bold step for the entire City Council of Harrison to unite behind a motion made by Councilman Tony Egner, chair of the Environment and Solid Waste Committee, to formally support the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners in their pursuit of rules to regulate landfills within the county on Tuesday evening.
The entire city council is Republican and the entire Board of Commissioners is Democrats, but some issues cross all political spectrums. This is one of those issues.
“Rumpke is a great corporate citizen, but my duty is to the residents and doing what’s best for them,” Egner said, “It’s time we step forward and support rules to preserve our quality of life right here in Harrison.”
The council was updated by the director of Child Advocacy for Rights & Equity, Inc., who proposed the initiative to adopt rules as authorized by the Ohio legislature. The power for the county commissioners to adopt rules has existed for over 3 decades and despite nearly every county around Hamilton County having some version of rules about the siting of landfills, Hamiton County's Solid Waste Plan was mute on the topic. It was last raised by the Solid Waste Policy Committee during the ratification of a plan update in January 2000, with no action taken. The next month, Rumpke was improperly seated on the committee as a non-voting, ex officio member. The topic was never raised again, according to a review of meeting minutes.
On Friday, after C.A.R.E. sent an email to the Policy Committee citing the law that prohibits landfill operators ever being on the committee and the obvious conflict of interest occurring when one is both the subject of the meeting and sitting on the committee, Rumpke voluntarily resigned their seat.
None of the surrounding counties have a landfill. All utilize the 1 landfill in SW Hamilton County known as Mt. Rumpke. Over 50% of the trash at Mt Rumpke is generated outside the county. Some trash comes from as far away as Illinois (not New York as previously stated months ago). Each county in Ohio is required to meet its own landfill needs - yet, everything regionally is dumped here.
When C.A.R.E. introduced their initiative to adopt rules that empowered county commissioners to have veto power over the Ohio EPA's decision to allow landfills in residential areas, regardless of public sentiments, the Policy Committee was dismissive. Many members had sat on the committee for over a decade and they were never informed by staff that the commissioners had this power nor of the full range of powers of the committee. The county commissioners were likewise dismissive, as staff informed them that C.A.R.E. was misinformed. Over the course of almost 6 months, C.A.R.E. inundated both entities with proof that they had this authority. Finally, in September, 3 members of the Solid Waste Policy Committee were convinced, C.A.R.E. was correct. They issued a joint memorandum to the newly-elected chair, Commissioner Denise Driehaus, demanding the prospect of passing rules be put on the agenda.
It has been highly contentious and got worse as the realization that C.A.R.E.'s proposal was not only fully legal but embraced by a majority across all boards, commissions, and committees. There were a few holdouts favoring no rules for Rumpke who were obstructive and insulting, demanding that the committee "Slow down". Even resident groups were at odds over passing rules as the solution they all needed. The director of C.A.R.E. stated,
"It is really hard to get everyone on the same page when a handful of people are blocking the means to communicate with the public. It took a great deal of effort and outreach to forward a viable solution we could all support to address what has been ailing Colerain for over 20 years and what was coming to Whitewater and Harrison Townships."
As of today, a subcommittee had been formed that drafted and proposed 1 rule (Scroll down on the link. The interesting part starts on page 7.) requiring that any solid waste facility must get the approval of the commissioners before "constructing, modifying, or enlarging a solid waste facility" and created criteria to be assessed in that decision-making that is not under the exclusive domain of the Ohio EPA. Such criterion takes into account: stench, noise, traffic, proximity to waterways, neighborhoods, schools, parks, and recreational activities, as well as, the environmental impact. That rule was referred to the Policy Committee, which made minor edits for clarity and was voted to be recommended for adoption by the commissioners. Commissioners intend to vote on it on December 16th.
After a brief update on the rulemaking process, the board unanimously voted to "protect our quality of life." The City of Mt. Healthy, at the motion of Mayor James Wolf, also voted to inform the county commissioners that their council fully supports the adoption of rules.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners is seeking your input. You can email them via their clerk of the board at: Jacqueline.Panioto@hamilton-co.org or attend the meeting in person, file an electronic comment, or participate by ZOOM, here on or before December 16th.