As solid waste rule edges toward approval; Cleves, Harrison, and Mt. Healthy throw support behind county commissioners

The Cincinnati Post
The Village of Cleves votes to support the county commissioners in the adoption of rules to regulate landfills.The Cincinnati Post, 2021

The Village of Cleves quickly approved a motion last night "supporting the County Commissioners in adopting rules to regulate the solid waste industry in Hamilton County." The council voted unanimously after Child Advocacy for Rights & Equity, Inc. (C.A.R.E.), who proposed the initiative, presented an update on the progress of rule-making to rein in the solid waste industry in the county. Earlier in the week, the cities of Harrison and Mt. Healthy both passed such motions as well.

C.A.R.E. initiated advocacy on behalf of residents living near the newly announced expansion of a landfill in Whitewater Township, which sits on the border of Ohio and Indiana, in SW Hamilton County along the Whitewater River. The proposed expansion would ultimately increase garbage disposal from 1 truckload per year to over 400 truckloads per day. The landfill is set in the side of a hill with a senior living community at its base and caddy-corner from the Green Acres Kayak business, a very busy area for river enthusiasts.

It's a very bad location for a landfill on an slope and in a residential area.

The movement to oppose the landfill expansion has gained significant momentum since launched in the spring. Quickly, a grassroots organization called Ditch the Dump collected almost 2,000 signatures, primarily from Indiana residents, who oppose the landfill. Thereafter, other nonprofits entered the movement, Oxobw, Inc., Rivers Unlimited, the Sierra Club, and the League of Women Voters.

C.A.R.E. created an online petition to allow more residents of Hamilton County to weigh in called, Rules to Regulate Landfills.

Cumulatively, almost 10K residents were represented by the various interests. Each had their own motivations and causes, but all wanted to stop the landfill from expanding whether it was due to the stench that comes with landfills, the threat to the Whitewater River and ecosystem, or the change in the quality of life in the area. C.A.R.E. devised a unique plan to combat the landfill expansion while resolving a multitude of long term problems with the waste disposal industry in Hamilton County. C.AR.E. discovered that Hamilton County never exercised its authority to make rules and requiring facility operators to acquire the permission of county commissioners to proceed with facility plans. They had been authorized for over 20 years to do so, but never exercised their powers.

Most counties surrounding Hamilton County have such rules pertaining to the siting and the impact of landfills. None of them have landfills nor the adverse effects that come with them. They all dump their garbage in Hamilton County - because the county doesn't have any rules. By late summer, C.A.R.E. had corraled most organizations around their proposal to have the county adopt rules. They had also convinced a majority of the Solid Waste Policy Committee that they had a duty to pursue rules in order to protect the county residents and environment.

On December 16th, the Board of Commissioners are set to vote to adopt the rules.

Advocates for rule adoption have waged a lobbying effort across the county to bring local jurisdictions on up to date and on board with the concept, along with the nonprofits and grassroot supporters. the support of Cleves, Harrison, and Mt. Healthy represents a grassroots effort of almost 30K residents in support of the county adopting rules to regulate the solid waste industry for the first time in county history. The diversity of the municipalities reflects a bi-partisan and broad spectrum across socio-economic boundaries sharing in support of adopting rules.

The City of Cincinnati is the largest body politic in the county. Jan Michelle Lemon Kearny and Greg Landsman's offices have expressed interest in shepherding the issue through city council. That would bring a simple majority representation of almost half of the entire county. This support will not only help the commissioners in determining how to vote on Thursday, but also set the stage for inclusion, involvement and a ratification of the Solid Waste Policy Plan Update due in about a year. Each jurisdiction will formally vote on the plan, however the rules will go into effect immediately.

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