Before being shut down to accepting delivery of waste in 1988, the site became home to thousands of tons of highly toxic chemical industrial waste. Sealed in drums, the waste was stacked in pits in the ground that was lined with clay and plastic before being covered. As time goes by, obviously the metal drums will decay and the chemicals will leak to the surrounding dirt. The theory is that the pits are impervious to ground water getting in and likewise getting out. That’s the theory.
The question is, is the 1970’s technology of sealing acres of soil working? Some do not think so. What happens IF the nasty chemicals leak into the area ground outside of the pits? What happens if they mix with other nasty chemicals? What happens if it gets into the ground water then into the aquifer? Can the chemicals make their way into the nearby creek and then into our water supply? Who is to monitor and report if these chemicals escape? These are questions the state and federally required “Post-Closure Plan” is supposed to address. While the report deadline is quickly approaching, this is not something you want to rush – and it has not been.
I was recently asked by Jackson Township residents to assist other legislators who have been asked to intervene on their behalf. While the Jackson Township site is not officially in my district, the watershed of the site, including Harsha Lake at Eastfork State Park is.
I met a few days ago with the Ohio EPA in their Dayton offices. They responded to my request for a full briefing with enthusiasm and professionalism I have not often experienced in other state agencies. For several hours five professionals and scientists explained what they have required of CECOS and what they will continue to require long into the future. They realize the stakes are high. If contaminants get out, you could have another “New York Love Canal” incident of the 1970’s where the entire community was contaminate by buried chemicals - which by the way is now buried at the CECOS site.
Many have reservations and conflicted feelings about the OEPA. An arm of both the state and US EPA, it is sometimes considered an over-regulating agency that impedes certain progress. In this case I am finding that some are considering them to be both over-reaching and under-reaching at the same time. After looking at the considerable data that they continue to collect on the CECOS site, I at least feel comfortable that they are expending a considerable amount of time and resources to see that Republic Services (the current owners of CECOS) is held accountable to the extent the law permits them to.
In dealing with the “Post Closure Plan” where it will be determined how industry and government is going to work together to continue to monitor and protect our community, we still have a long way to go to where all sides agree. My hope is that it does not become a set-in-stone static document but rather changes with the needs of the community. Perhaps it will contain a requirement for an annual committee review to see if the plan is providing the best protection. One thing is certain, as long as there is chemical waste in the ground at the site, neither industry nor government can walk away from it. That is state and federal law.
There are more meetings set up in the next couple of weeks I will be attending to continue to address this issue and I’ll represent the people of Clermont County to the fullest extent allowed.
Joe Uecker (R-Miami Township) is the state representative serving the 66th District.