By William Kincaid
A public meeting will be held on whether the EPA should allow an increase in elevation of the Celina Sanitary Landfill in rural Franklin Township.
The Mercer County Solid Waste Policy Committee approved a resolution that will allow Allied Waste Co. -- which runs the Celina Sanitary Landfill -- to hold the mandated meeting instead of the Ohio EPA. However, the committee will request that an EPA official be present at the meeting, which is tentatively scheduled to happen sometime in September.
Steve White, an Allied Waste public relations consultant, requested that his company hold the meeting in order to speed the application process up. If the EPA were to hold the meeting -- which according to Mercer County Commissioner Jerry Laffin could still happen regardless if Allied Waste officiated a meeting, the process could take much longer.
Allied Waste will only have to wait seven days to hold its meeting after submitting a public notice to The Daily Standard. If the EPA, on the other hand, submitted a notice for its meeting, it could take place anytime after 30 to 45 days, according to White.
Chris Miller, Mercer County Health Department sanitarian and member of the waste committee, cast the only opposing vote. Miller felt uncomfortable about the landfill company holding the meeting instead of the regulatory EPA. "There's a little bit of a contentious relationship ... for whatever reasons, it (the proposed landfill expansion), turns them (those who live near the site) off," Miller said. "We would rather have the EPA run that."
Miller's primary objection to the expansion is the aquifer already existing underneath the landfill. He said he has heard from at least three concerned residents in the area.
However, committee member Mike Niekamp, thoroughly supported the resolution and said there are always going to be few people who are uncooperative and will simply "bitch about it."
"It's bigger (the expansion) than two or three dissatisfied people," he said. "I think we ought to, they (those upset) can come up here and raise hell."
The application to expand the plant both veritically and horizontally was submitted to the EPA in 2004. White said that if the vertical expansion proposal is approved, it would give the facility an additional seven to nine years of waste storage. White said the initial urgency is to have the vertical expansion approved, which would give the committee ample time to consider an additional lateral expansion.
"There's a good chance we're going to run out of air space and have to close the plant," White told those in attendance, later adding Allied Waste is going to try to avoid that possibility by speeding the application process up.
Regardless if any EPA official shows up at the forthcoming public meeting, White said the public can expect an unfettered medium to voice their concerns, which will be unedited and sent directly to the Ohio EPA director. But Laffin said people may feel more comfortable speaking if the EPA was present -- not just Allied Waste officials -- whose Celina company is in jeopardy of closing down.
White said since 2004, there have been 13 public meetings that were ill-attended by the public, with usually only two to three present. When asked by Laffin how the meetings were advertised, White said public notices were submitted to the newspaper, adding that well over 50 percent were public knowledge.
"We don't expect a lot of comments, we don't expect a large attendance," White said about the forthcoming public meeting.
White said Allied Waste has known about the dwindling air space available for six months and "we're pushing them (EPA) very hard." White also said he believes it is quite plausible for the vertical expansion proposal to pass.
White also said that the Ohio EPA director will be the only official to either approve or reject the expansion proposal. He said the application proposal process -- which has no actual EPA requirements -- is discretionary.
"Unfortunately we're at the eleventh hour," Miller said.