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02-07-03: Fort Recovery couple dispute manure license
The Daily Standard
    A Fort Recovery couple is disputing their license fee paid to the Mercer County Health Department for a manure composting facility they run on their poultry farm.
    Jim and Mary Wenning, 1500 Union City Road, told board of health members who met Thursday that they want the board to reimburse them half of the $1,200 fee they paid in 2002 for a solid waste license they say overestimates the use of their facility. They want the $600 refund to be used to cover a $600 license fee for this year.
    The cost of the license is different for the two years because of a change in numbers on the Wennings' application.
    The Wennings compost poultry manure, mixing it with a paper pulp product. Under Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules, the facility counts as a solid waste operation because they use paper pulp and compost it into a marketable product. Since the facility is a solid waste operation, they must have the local license.
    The $1,200 license the Wennings paid for in September 2002 was based on an estimated 30 tons of manure being processed daily. However, a newer, more accurate estimate of 19.5 tons was noted on this year's application, resulting in a lower license fee for this year, a representative of the Wennings told board members.
    The two different amounts of daily manure were derived from two different universities the Wennings obtained to do studies on how much manure is processed daily, said Michelle Kimmel, the health department's environmental health director.
    Because the composting facility never handled the 30 tons listed on the old application, the Wennings want half of their money reimbursed, said Ron Strasburg, a consultant who has guided the Wennings through the state and local permitting processes.
    "We feel we've been overcharged for last year," Strasburg said.
    But Kimmel told health board members the Wennings failure to pay for this year's license has resulted in an invalid license application. The facility is now operating without a license, she said.
    Mike Reiser, an EPA official who attended Thursday's meeting, said the Wennings have been illegally operating the facility for at least 18 months.
    But Mary Wenning said it is not fair that the manure composting is considered a solid waste activity. The Wennings plan to argue that issue before EPA officials in the near future.
    "We're just farmers out here. We're not sitting on a gold mine," she said.
    Board members offered mixed feelings on whether any money should be reimbursed. They eventually tabled the issue until a number of questions can be answered. They want to know the legality of offering a refund and want to find out how the Wennings fare in their dispute with the EPA over the classification of their facility.
    Also Thursday, Health Commissioner Dr. Philip Masser told board members that no source for an outbreak of salmonella poisoning has been tracked down. Also the number of confirmed cases has risen to 18, mostly involving students at Celina's East elementary school and others with some connection to the school, he said.
    "We've not really found any contaminated source," Masser said. "Whatever the source was, it appears to have died down."
    In other business, board members:
    - Agreed to buy some new computer equipment from Intermedia 3, Delphos, for $6,211, to be paid from state grant money.
    - Delayed a decision on buying a cellular phone for 24-hour contact with local health officials to meet the terms of a bioterror grant.
    - Approved a food service plan for the Shingle Shack restaurant near Montezuma, which is reopening after it burned down last year.


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P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822