The Hamilton County Solid Waste Policy Committee (Committee) will vote this Wednesday at 3 pm on whether to support more rules to protect county neighborhoods from the hazards and blight of residential landfills that create environmental nightmares for nearby residents.
The Committee will consider whether to include these proposed rules in their Solid Waste Plan Update, a process that occurs every 5 years. The Plan Update must be ratified by 60% of the governing bodies of each jurisdiction within the county. Each jurisdiction’s vote is weighted by the size of their population. It is one of the most important votes your local authorities will cast to protect the quality of life of their residents. Their votes in support of rules may well change the direction of a greener, cleaner Hamilton County.
In December 2021, the Board of Commissioners passed a rule for the first time in county history requiring all landfills to acquire the permission of the commissioners before creating, modifying, or expanding any landfill within the county. The new rule, proposed and shepherded by Carrie Davis, Director of Child Advocacy for Rights & Equity, Inc., essentially gave commissioners the power to veto permits issued by the Ohio EPA. Davis fought for 6 months to garner support for exercising the county’s rule-making authority to protect residents from the stench and blight brought by placing landfills in residential neighborhoods or near vulnerable habitats. It was a contentious and often hostile fight to gain the support of a majority of citizen groups, the Committee, and eventually the Board of Commissioners.
This week, Bob Gedert, a public representative on the Solid Waste Policy Committee, is proposing additional rules (pages 14 -17) he drafted to curtail the county from becoming the trash capital of the country. His efforts are the result of community engagement with members of the Solid Waste Caucus, an ad hoc group of nonprofits and organizations throughout the region, and a few fellow members of the Policy Committee. His draft rules expand on the powers of the commissioners and will significantly reduce the amount of garbage being dumped on Hamilton County from all across the tri-state that must be landfilled while raising funds to help the county address issues with the landfills. His rules are solution-based and have garnered the support of those representing thousands of residents.
The proposed rules include:
1) Universal Trash Collection commencing January 2024. Requiring that every resident must have weekly trash services. These services are to help address the escalating problem of illegal dumping and littering that has cost taxpayers over $3M in clean-up costs across the county and “theft of services” crimes wherein people are dumping their trash in others’ garbage. See the interactive map here.
2) Universal Recycling Services commencing January 2026. Requiring that all trash haulers must provide recycling containers and collection in conjunction with all trash pick-up services. Known as service “pairing”. It has been proven, time and time again, that when given the opportunity to recycle at no extra charge, residents will use the service and that will significantly reduce the amount of trash taken to landfills which is driving the need for expansion, after expansion, of landfills locally.
3) Universal Composting of Organics commencing January 2028. Collection of compost materials will be paired with other trash services. Organics is a large contributor to Rumpke being the largest emitter of methane gas in the area creating "heat islands" and poor air quality, not to mention the stench. Methane gas is considered a "super polluter" contributing to climate change.
By passing these rules, Gedert is attacking the problems associated with landfills at the source. By increasing recycling, his proposed rules will reduce the need to forever expand existing landfills. Most local jurisdictions have embraced mandatory trash and recycling subscription services, already, saving their residents up to 25% on their trash bills while helping to solve the problems associated with landfills and encouraging recycling and reducing waste.
Gedert also is proposing an increase in the “tipping fees” collected by Hamilton County to fund the staff and services needed to deal with problems associated with landfill operations. Despite each county having a requirement to provide a means for disposal of the trash generated in their counties, all surrounding counties are burdening Hamilton County residents and the government with dealing with their trash. Hamilton County is the dumping ground for nearly all trash within the region. The higher fees to outside counties will generate $2.48 million in revenues to develop the infrastructure necessary to process the region’s trash and to protect neighborhoods from the blight and environmental hazards imposed on the county by being the trash destination for surrounding counties.
While Gedert's proposed rules will do nothing to stop the Bond Road Landfill expansion, they will impact the need to expand landfills in the future. The only way for the landfill expansion to stop is if the county commissioners enforce the first rule passed - to require Rumpke to seek commissioners' approval to expand. However, Commissioner Driehaus, who chairs the Committee, has done an about-face on the issue.
Driehaus has been in opposition to residents in southwest Hamilton County by taking actions in support of Rumpke:
- Driehaus has let the appointment of 2 members with highly questionable conflicts of interest due to their relationships or contracts with Rumpke to be seated on the Committee despite both her fellow commissioners objecting to one.
- Driehaus back-doored Tony DiPuccio's appointment, ignoring Ohio Ethics laws, when he admits he works as a consultant for Rumpke on "compliance issues." (The committee proposes rules that Rumpke must comply with and reviews Rumpke applications for county approval under the first rule passed.)
- The matter is before the Ohio Ethics Commission for determination and could lead to criminal charges. In the meanwhile, the damage is done.
- Driehaus also authorized a waiver requiring Rumpke to comply with the new rule without convening an executive session or informing her fellow commissioners until after the fact, allegedly, in violation of Open Meetings law - also, a matter pending in court.
- Early on, Driehaus permitted Rumpke to have a designee on the committee for months after being informed that it was against the law.
- Driehaus also ceased a contract with private counsel hired by the Committee without a vote. She has still not formally addressed why she unilaterally fired their own counsel without the Committee's consent.
- Driehaus refuses to release the legal opinion from Deters' office, even to Committee members, that she claims excuses DiPuccio from conflict of interest laws.
- At the last meeting of the Committee, Driehaus was asked to provide them with their own legal opinion on the matter; a month later, the request is not even on the meeting agenda.
- Driehaus has refused to provide the public with any viable answers for her "deny and delay" tactics used to hinder efforts by county residents to prevent the expansion of another landfill in the county when over 50% of the waste coming in is from outside the county.
While Commission President Stephanie Dumas remains disturbed by all the other counties dumping their garbage in Hamilton County neighborhoods and is an ally to residents in southwest Hamilton County on the matter, she steadfastly maintains her position in support of the rules passed, and has objected to DiPuccio being on the Committee - as long as Driehaus chairs the Committee - county residents are at the mercy of the Ohio EPA and Rumpke's political influence in determining if the Bond Road site will become Mt. Rumpke 2.0.
Residents can weigh in on the proposed rules on Wednesday, September 21st at the County Department of Environmental Services at 250 William Howard Taft Road in Clifton, or by zoom at: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87150768519?pwd=R2hWUEtKK3VxNHprS3dOcURwQkk5UT09. Residents are also encouraged to write the county commissioners supporting the passage of these rules via the Clerk of the Board at: Leslie.Hervey@hamilton-co.org .