The Ohio EPA was required to shut down Bond Road landfill decades ago. "Is it collusion or incompetence?"

The Cincinnati Post
Ohio EPA had legal notice of Rumpke's inactive status in 2012, but failed to close as law requires.The Cincinnati Post, 2022 (courtesy of Gary Hammerle)

The Ohio EPA has Rumpke on the fast track for approval of their latest modification to the Bond Road landfill. The OEPA has allowed Rumpke to categorize “modifications” as mere alterations, attempted to deny Public Hearings, censored residents asking questions, and failed to take action despite violation after violation for years.

Now, evidence has been discovered that appears to prove that the Ohio EPA has been turning a blind eye to serious violations of the Bond Road permit over the course of decades. Residents want to know, “is it collusion or just incompetence?”

Gary Hammerle, of Bright Indiana, wanted to find answers. He said he went sleuthing for “a needle in a haystack – and found one.”

Hammerle set off to find out how Rumpke still possessed a landfill permit when he had inquired decades earlier before buying land adjacent to the property and building his dream home. The authorities had told him that the landfill wasn’t operational. He believed the periodic trucks that happened on the property from time to time were merely doing maintenance – not operating a landfill.

Hammerle was surprised when Rumpke issued a “Neighborhood Letter” informing residents on the Ohio side of Sand Run that the landfill was operational and intending to expand. Frustrated by not being able to get answers and being told that since he lived in Indiana he had no voice (since his neighbor straddled the state line and operated the landfill on the Ohio side) he started looking for answers. Hammerle set off to find the proof that the landfill was closed.

In his spare time between operating his construction business and raising a family, Hammerle dived head-on into a government bureaucracy to find that “needle in a haystack.” Buried deep within thousands of documents stored on the Ohio EPA’s website and those held by the Hamilton County Health Department, Hammerle found where Rumpke had forfeited its Bond Road permit decades ago, and repeatedly thereafter by failing to deposit trash at the site.

Yet, the Ohio EPA never did anything about it.

Hammerle found at the Ohio EPA multiple documents that said the landfill was “not” operational which were signed by Rumpke’s representative. In supporting documents, he found at the county health department that monitors, measures, and reports on the landfill’s operations, documentation that the facility ceased to operate on 6 occasions under the law and was subject to mandatory closure for failure to utilize its permit for over a year.

Hammerle filed a “verified complaint” under oath with the Ohio EPA on March 3rd claiming that Rumpke shouldn’t be granted an increase in its daily tonnage because Rumpke legally has no valid permit at all. Rumpke lost its existing permit back in 1999 by operation of law. They then lost it again in 2012, then again in 2013, and 2 more times before its latest violation in 2022.

His complaint itemizes the violations as follows:
Excerpt from the Verified Complaint filed by Gary Hammerle, neighbor of Rumpke landfillThe Cincinnati Post, 2022 (courtesy of Gary Hammerle)

Under the OAC 3745-27-11 Section (C)(1)(d) when a landfill operator fails to deposit garbage at a particular facility for more than a year, they lose their permit to accept any other trash thereafter and must notify the Ohio EPA and immediately start the facility closure policy required by law.

In other words, “If you don’t use it, lose it”.
The Ohio Administrative Code mandating that an non-operational landfill must close after 1 year.The Cincinnati Post, 2022 (courtesy of Gary Hammerle)

Hammerle asks the director of the Ohio EPA to require Rumpke to immediately close down the Bond Road Landfill as mandated by law. Further, he requests that the Ohio EPA, “void all current permits for failure to follow final closure plans not later than seven days after occurrences.” His position is that any subsequent action or lack of action by either Rumpke or the Ohio EPA is the “fruit of the poisonous tree.” He applies a common legal construct that Rumpke should not be permitted to use its violation of law, now, as leverage against its neighbors to remain open, much less, increase its daily tonnage limits burdening their neighbors when derelict of the law.

As they say, “If you snooze, you lose. “

Hammerle asserts that neighbors in Bright, Indiana, Whitewater Township, and Harrison Township relied to their detriment upon the seemingly closed status of the facility and bought land, improved their properties, and built lives in this area when being deceived by the word and deed of Rumpke for decades and they relied upon the Ohio EPA whose negligence or willful collusion permitted Rumpke to skirt the law at great pains to the community. The documents discovered show that the Ohio EPA was notified that the landfill was not operational and that law requires they initiate mandatory closure actions. However, neighbors fearful of Rumpke retaliation said, “The Ohio EPA just gave Rumpke a ‘wink and nod’ and let them continue operating in violation of their rights - and the law.”

Hammerle plans to seek injunctive relief from the Federal District Court if the Ohio EPA does not restrain Rumpke from moving forward on any permit or other action and enforce the federal and state laws on mandatory landfill closures.

Earth Day

Meanwhile, Rumpke has threatened to pull out of the Greater Cincinnati Earth Day Celebration set to occur this Saturday at Summit Park in Blue Ash, if the committee that coordinates the event allows Hammerle’s neighbors from Ditch the Dump to attend. Last week, the chair of the committee sent a threatening text message to the group. He said,

"If Ditch the Dump comes to the event, we'll ask the Blue Ash police to escort you out of the park..."

Chuck Lohr, the chair of the Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition event who sent the text, was sincerely regretful. “I think I made a big mistake.” Some of the event sponsors are concerned as well. The spokesperson for the Green Umbrella said, “everyone should have a voice” at the event. Mad Tree Brewery was disturbed and we are still awaiting comment. Ditch the Dump is awaiting the decision of the Earth day event committee. They are excited about the opportunity to collaborate with others who care about the environment at the Earth Day event and hope that they will be permitted to have their own booth. Several organizations are supporting the Ditch the Dump grassroots organization.

If Rumpke doesn’t get its way, they’re taking their ball and going home.

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