By Nancy Allen
Qualitec Metal Finishers Inc., Celina, will pay a $20,000 Ohio EPA fine for hazardous waste violations at its Grand Lake Road Facility.
Operations manager Jon Kriegel claims Alan Smith, who owned the business when it was called Ringle Plating Corp., knew of the violations before selling it to Kriegel Capital, LLC, of Van Wert, on June 5, 2003. Kriegal says Smith of Celina did not say anything about the violations and even signed a contract denying there were any such pre-existing conditions.
Kriegel also claims Smith received special treatment from previous city administrations by not being charged for routine water testing done by Celina water treatment plant employees -- testing services the city now charges Qualitec for.
Kriegel this week said that had he known about the environmental problems, his family never would have purchased the Celina facility.
"As part of the purchase agreement, there was to be no pre-existing EPA issues," Kriegel said. "Thirty days after we took possession, a huge (proposed) fine of about $90,000 came through and we have negotiated with attorneys and the EPA to get it where it is now ... He (Smith) didn't tell us anything. He signed off on it and told us it was clean." Kriegel said Qualitec hired Smith as the operations manager there, but fired him last November when they found out the EPA violations were legitimate. Smith did not return a message left at his Celina home seeking comment.
Kriegel also said the ongoing EPA troubles have stalled a plan to move work from another plant Kriegel Capital owns in Delphos to the Celina plant. Qualitec employs 10 full-time people on three shifts.
The settlement between Qualitec and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency became final this week.
The violations were discovered during earlier visits and existed between November 2002 through May 2003. All the violations have been corrected, EPA spokesperson Dina Pierce said, but Qualitec will be required to conduct further soil and ground water testing near an illegal hazardous waste storage area to determine if further cleanup is required.
The business generates large quantities of hazardous waste, including a zinc-laden sludge made up of cleaners used to prep metal for electroplating, the EPA states. The sludge is the end product of the treatment process. Qualitec does work mostly for other businesses, putting a zinc plating on automotive and other machined parts. The facility no longer does nickel or chrome plating, Kriegel said.
Ohio EPA inspections at the facility last year found that Ringle Plating had created an unpermitted hazardous waste storage area by storing hazardous waste longer than 90 days.
Other violations included failure to meet the design, installation, operation and inspection requirements for two-tank systems that store hazardous waste; failure to operate the facility in a manner that minimizes the possibility of an unplanned release of hazardous waste; failure to comply with various container management requirements; and other violations that involve employee training, equipment inspections and emergency planning within the facility and with local authorities.
In the settlement with the Ohio EPA, QuaIitec officials agreed to perform sampling to determine the extent of any contamination at the illegal hazardous waste storage area. Depending on the results, the company may be required to take additional action to clean the area.
The $20,000 civil penalty will be deposited into the hazardous waste cleanup fund administered by the Ohio EPA.
Pierce said it is unfortunate that new business owners have to pay for previous' owners noncompliance with the law.
"If you buy a piece of property you become responsible for any cleanup or violations that are there," Pierce said. "It's not that Kriegel committed any violations, it's just that the property owner and operator became responsible when they bought it."
As for Kriegel's claim about the city not charging for water testing in the past, Celina Wastewater Superintendent Mike Lenhart says that is true.
Lenhart this morning said previous city administrations back to 1998 would not allow him to charge the former Ringle Plating for the services. Lenhart said Ringle had a history of noncompliances with the city and EPA regulations regarding allowable amounts of metals in the discharge water that goes into the city sewer system and is ultimately treated at the wastewater treatment plant.
Lenhart said city officials were being sensitive to Ringle, which lost much of its business when the former Huffy Bicycle Corp. factory in Celina closed.
Lenhart said he believes there is a positive outcome to the EPA's involvement with new owner.
"Qualitec has shut down the nickel and chrome part of their plant and they are focusing on zinc plating. The nickel was the number that was most problematic with the EPA ... we are anticipating some really good numbers in the future," he said.
Lenhart also said Qualitec has added equipment that does a better job of removing metal particles that could get into city sewers.