The Ditch the Dump community group that opposes the expansion of a landfill in their area due to potential water pollution was threatened via text message by Chuck Lohr, Chair of the Greater Cincinnati Earth Day Celebration after requesting to participate in Earth Day. He writes:
Ditch the Dump is part of a larger coalition called the Solid Waste Caucus that opposes the expansion of a new Rumpke landfill at the Indiana – Ohio border between Bright and Whitewater Township, near Harrison, because it poses an imminent threat to the Whitewater River. The Whitewater River is the drinking water source for thousands of residents in southwest Hamilton County. They also oppose the landfill because of Rumpke’s track record of pollution in Colerain Township. Rumpke is one of the biggest polluters of air and water in the county due to its methane production. Rumpke has repeatedly had serious violations such as landslides, fires, stench, and litter. The coalition speaks for nearly 10 thousand county residents as represented by Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters, Child Advocacy for Rights & Equity, Oxbow, and Ditch the Dump. The group has been working collaboratively for months to stop the increase in waste brought right up the hill from the Whitewater River.
When Blue Ash Police were contacted for a comment on the threat, the dispatcher said, “If Brian Cruz (Summit Park director) agrees with the event host, (that their message is not appropriate) they will ask them to leave and if they don’t leave, they are (criminally) trespassing.” The officer refused to identify herself when confronted by questions referring to free speech and the right to assemble in a public park. Shortly thereafter, Sargeant Ballauer corrected the dispatcher’s statement, “We don’t arrest people for exercising their right to free speech.”
The theme of this year’s Earth day is “’ ’Water: Create a Ripple Effect to Protect’ to promote more sustainable practices that protect Cincinnati’s waterways.” Their stated goals are:
· Provide a forum for discussion leading to action.
· Serve as a network for environmental resources and information.
· Identify specific environmental issues and areas of concern in the Tri-State area.
· Promote community awareness of these areas.
· Address and increase community participation in creative solutions for these areas of concern
Rumpke is not listed as a sponsor of the event. Ditch the Dump and the Caucus have spent the last year seeking better practices related to landfills. None of the sponsors of the event have been actively involved in protecting the environment as it pertains to landfills.
In December, the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners passed rules to regulate landfill operators for the first time in county history, due to the work of the Caucus and Ditch the Dump members. Commissioners Denise Driehaus and Stephanie Summerow Dumas have been integral in promoting a healthier community by tackling hard issues that have been neglected for generations related to the quality of life. They have both said that they are tired of Hamilton County being the dumping ground for trash from all over the region and the county bearing the burdens of our neighboring jurisdictions at the expense of our environment and the quality of life of our residents.
Ditch the Dump was formed when reading in The Cincinnati Post a year of the newest expansion plans of Rumpke atop a hill with a senior living community at its base serving as the only buffer between leachate escaping the landfill and the Whitewater River below.
Sandra Jones Mitchell, Director, Serving Older Adults Through Changing Times, an organization celebrating 30 years of service to the community this year, recently sent an email to the Ohio EPA and county commissioners related to the plight of seniors living at the foot of the soon-to-be dump:
“I object to the OEPA expanding a landfill that creates not just a nuisance to our constituents but presents a significant hazard to their already compromised health status. The impact of the particulate matter from the construction and operation of the facility so close to a senior residence is to disregard the effects of aging and their vulnerability to conditions that will be imposed upon them and can cause significant damage that would require them to move and not be able to remain in their homes during their twilight years”
PUBLIC HEARING WITHOUT PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
This past Tuesday, the Ohio EPA held a Public Hearing on Rumpke’s request to erect a pile of trash up to 100 feet high by increasing their daily waste tonnage from 100 to 1,500 tons per day. Up until a year ago, the landfill was virtually closed. Rumpke discreetly dumped 1 truckload of garbage a year at the landfill in an effort to keep their permit active. Now, their long-term plans have come home to roost and nobody’s crowing about the news.
Residents are devastated and fear another Mt. Rumpke, like in Colerain, casting its shadow and stench on a senior community and across one of the busiest water recreation sites along the Whitewater River. Downstream from the dump is a water supply well that serves thousands of county residents. Further downstream lies the Oxbow wetlands conservation property.
At the Ohio EPA meeting, they made it clear that our legislators ( including State Representative Cindy “not my lane” Abrams and State Senator “Bill” Blessing) have prohibited them from considering any quality of life issues or the effect 1000 feet outside the landfill boundaries. Furthermore, the Ohio EPA frequently refused to answer questions it deemed “unrelated” to the permit request being heard without any opportunity for the citizens to explain the relationship of their questions to the Bond Road site. The Ohio EPA censored questions that they required to be put in writing via email and citizens were not permitted to speak for themselves. The process was fraught with failures from the beginning: publishing the wrong email address for submitting questions, requiring advance registrations that often failed and required multiple attempts and significant technological requirements that were difficult for many to master.
In spite of the encumbrances put before them, over 65 people logged on to the meeting, even though they were not permitted to speak. A week prior, about 75 residents appeared at a public information session offered by Rumpke. The meeting was held on a workday at 9 am. Frequently, Rumpke’s responses were inadequate, censored as unrelated to the issue, or sounded “like they were giving a heavily coached legal deposition instead of sharing information,” according to Carrie Davis, with Child Advocacy for Rights & Equity, Inc. Davis, frustrated by the lack of honest answers to questions, asked the Ohio EPA representative near the close of the information session, “Who the Hell is the Ohio EPA protecting? It’s not these residents - and it’s not the environment.”