Settlements reached in 2 landfill cases

By Mike Sever Record-Courier staff writer Published:

In the first, the state Attorney General's office and lawyers for Waldo Sorber, owner of Portage Landfill, 2888 Tallmadge Road, Rootstown, are working out the details of a final agreement to close the old landfill properly.

In the second case, the state attorney general's office has reached a settlement with James H. McMasters, owner of what is known as the McMasters Tire Dump in Atwater. The dump, which is believed to hold up to two million used vehicle tires, lies in the shadow of the Willowcreek Landfill, in the southwest corner of state routes 224 and 225.

Attorneys for both sides in the Portage Landfill case told Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow last week they had a tentative agreement. A final settlement, due in 30 days, would close the decade-old suit.

The attorney general filed an enforcement action for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency against Sorber for failure to get permits and to close the landfill in a proper way. Trial was to begin Wednesday, but last week the parties had a pretrial meeting with the judge and determined they had a tentative settlement.

County Commissioner Chuck Keiper, who was called to the pretrial meeting along with several others, said the agreement would include Sorber setting up a $56,000 trust for remediation of the landfill. Keiper said the amount is inadequate.

"I pointed out it's not enough to even hire a consultant to look at (what would have to be done)," he said. Also, there's no guarantee how much of the money would be left if legal or administrative fees are taken first.

Past inspections by the Portage County Health Department have shown liquid, or leachate, from the buried garbage is running into Breakneck Creek, which runs along the property.

To cover or "cap" the old landfill, Sorber's daughters, who own an adjacent sand and gravel pit, would make 100 tons of soil available free to the county. But the county would have to pay to dig the soil, truck it to the landfill, and spread it out.

"We're not even sure the soil is suitable," said DuWayne Porter, director of environmental health for the Portage County Health Department. And if more soil were needed, the county would have to buy it, he said.

The Portage County Solid Waste District could get some money by selling off some of the metal scrap left at an adjacent construction debris site, but Charles Ramer, coordinator for the district, said he doesn't know how much metal is left or what it is worth.

Under the terms of the agreement in the McMasters Tire Dump case, McMasters, of Mount Vernon, Judge John Enlow entered a $1.7 million judgment against McMasters, and put a lien in that amount against the land in Atwater.

McMasters also signed over a $1,000-a-month rent he receives from Browning-Ferris Industries of Ohio, Inc., owners of the neighboring landfill. Those payments are to go to the state's scrap tire management fund, which was established to clean up illegal tire dumps like McMasters. However, BFI has announced it intends to drop any expansion of its operation in Atwater, so there's no guarantee how long the lease payments would be made.

Also, a letter from the state official in charge of tire cleanup gives little hope of immediate action.

Robert Large, supervisor of the scrap tire unit of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's Division of Solid and Infectious Waste Management, wrote to the Portage County Health Department that, since the state got no immediate cash from McMasters, the county has three options:

The county could get a county firm with pollution violations to clean up the tires as a trade off for their state pollution penalties.

Or it could recruit a private business to take the illegal dump and move the tires into a legal monocell or monofill, at the county's expense.

Or finally, the county could wait until the state pays for the clean up out of its special fund. In his letter, Large note that the first cleanup contract using state money was signed Sept. 12, and that a request for proposals on the second site was issued Oct. 8.

Last spring, after Large first visited the Atwater site and a nearby

million-tire Deerfield dump with local officials, state officials stated

that the McMasters site and its neighbor were the third and fourth

largest tire piles in Ohio.

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