Seneca County General Health District evaluating all options to resolve landfill issues

The release below is from the Seneca County General Health District in response to odor issues and complaints about Sunny Farms Landfill.

Seneca County General Health District evaluating all options to resolve landfill issues

[Tiffin, OH Jan. 23, 2019] – We recognize that there is an odor problem at Sunny Farms Landfill and this press release is designed to help residents understand the nature of this issue and to invite them to a public forum to learn what is being done to address it.
The odor is the result of rainwater infiltrating into landfill cells, mixing with crushed gypsum board in buried construction and demolition debris (C&DD) waste. Bacteria are breaking down the gypsum (calcium sulfate) in C&DD waste and generating hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) as a by-product of this reaction.
The Ohio Department of Health Website states hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a colorless gas that can have a strong rotten egg odor. H2S is produced by the sulfur bacteria that break down organic matter. Hydrogen sulfide is found naturally in the environment and is also generated from human-made activities.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, hydrogen sulfide gas can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. Eyes may become watery, red and itchy. Exposure to H2S can also cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain and other health-related symptoms. Most people can smell H2S at levels much lower than the levels that can cause these health effects. Just because you smell H2S, does not always mean you will experience adverse health effects. However, sensitive populations such as infants, young children, the elderly, people with asthma or other respiratory problems and people with heart problems may be more likely to experience these symptoms from exposure to H2S. The landfill, the county health department and Ohio EPA personnel all use a Jerome Meter to test H2S levels at the site.
Seneca County General Health District is the licensing authority for the landfill. Efforts are being made to understand the issue better before health board officials feel they can make an educated decision on the license renewal for 2019. The health board is to hold a regular meeting Jan. 24, but no decision is to be made on the license.
The renewal is considered annually, and licenses are typically acted upon by the first of the year. In this case, it is unclear when a decision could be made.
Health Commissioner Beth Schweitzer said she believes the landfill is working hard to remedy the odor issues, but she said the board is evaluating all of its options.
“We have engaged with an environmental attorney to determine, legally, what we can do,” she said.
“We truly understand the citizens’ concerns, and we are doing what is in our power to alleviate this problem. We are giving careful consideration to what our next step should be with this license.”
The health board can grant or deny the license, but they are not limited to those two options.
In 2007, the health department followed the lead of the Ohio EPA by issuing a “proposed denial” of the landfill’s license. The issue dragged on for several months, but the company did not cease operations at any point. Eventually, the license was granted because the landfill had worked toward fixing the problems they were having.
One other option would be to grant the license to the landfill with conditions. This would mean the landfill would be subject to lose the license if they do not follow the agreed-upon conditions attached to it. These conditions could include testing requirements for specific chemicals or gases.
The Ohio Administrative Code states “The owner or operator shall operate the facility (a landfill) in such a manner that noise, dust, and odors are strictly controlled so as not to cause a nuisance or a health hazard.” The Ohio EPA has issued three notices of violation reports and one notice of deficiency report to Sunny Farms since December. These notices force the landfill into action, making them respond with a plan to fix the problems within.
Although the Seneca County Commissioners don’t have any direct regulatory authority over the landfill, the three are still working to understand the issue better and to find ways to reach a positive outcome for all parties.
“It is imperative that the current management bring their operation into compliance with our expectations for good corporate citizenship,” said Commissioner Shayne Thomas. “The time is now for them to be open and transparent and increase the level of communication with affected citizens. We will continue to collect information and evaluate our options.”
According to a statement from Sunny Farms, the landfill is working to control potential odors by investing millions of dollars in additional systems and state-of-the-art technologies. The company states it is constructing a new hydrogen Sulfide treatment system, it is working on a 22-acre capping project and it plans to continue expanding the landfill’s gas collection system.
Schweitzer encouraged concerned residents to report any complaints they have and to attend the Jan. 30 public forum to learn more about the issue and what is being done to address it. She said the forum was scheduled by health board members as part of the process to understand better and eventually resolve this problem.
The Jan. 30 event is to begin at 6 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center of Fostoria Junior/Senior High School, 1001 Park Avenue. There is to be parking available in the south lot, and those attending should enter the building via the south entrance.
Representatives from Sunny Farms Landfill, Ohio EPA and Seneca County General Health District are to give short presentations at the beginning of the forum. After the presentations, those in attendance will have the opportunity to submit questions to the entities mentioned above. The Ohio Department of Health also will have representatives available to help answer questions. The event should last until about 8 p.m.
Seneca County Public Information Officer Dean Henry will moderate the event. Those interested in submitting questions or comments before the meeting can use the e-mail address SunnyFarmsFeedback@gmail.com and include the word “forum” in the subject line. During the event, those in attendance may submit questions or comments on a card.

Here is some helpful contact information for if you want to report issues related to the landfill:
Seneca County General Health District: (419) 447-3691
Sunny Farms Odor Complaint Line: (866) 419-8639
Ohio EPA, Northwest District: (800) 686-6930 or (419) 352-8461
Complaint e-mail (monitored by the health department) SunnyFarmsFeedback@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Seneca County General Health District evaluating all options to resolve landfill issues

  • January 24, 2019 at 8:58 am
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    So all the entities will be represented to have this opportunity to speak, but what about representatives for we, the people, who deal with the mismanaged effects of these very entities who have continued to fail us. If this is truly an open forum, then it seems like we should have a voice as well.

    Reply
  • January 24, 2019 at 10:35 am
    Permalink

    Hi, Jenny.

    Thanks for your comment. I work for the county and helped the health department on this press release.

    The three entities are going to give short (7-10 minutes each) presentations. We will allow the rest of the time (hopefully about 1.5 hours) for citizens’ comments and questions. The presenters are focusing on the two primary questions that were asked at the December Board of Health meeting. The hope is that what is presented will answer many of the questions that were asked that night.

    If we were to try to answer other questions that have been presented to us since that time, presentations would be extremely lengthy and would not allow time for the citizens’ questions to be asked. It was the suggestion of Mr. Nate Heiser that other questions be asked on cards and then sorted into similar questions. He told Beth Schweitzer that members of his group would be there to assist with that night. This would be done to avoid the same questions being repeated multiple times.

    Health department officials expect a very large crowd for this event, so that is why they are accepting questions and comments now at sunnyfarmsfeedback@gmail.com.

    The people sorting questions backstage will have no affiliation with Ohio EPA, Sunny Farms, Ohio Department of Health or the Seneca County health department. They will not be moderating questions but will focus on removing duplicates.

    The health department is spending a lot of time every day collecting information on concerns and questions from the people, the goal is not to silence anyone, but to put on an efficient event and collect more data on the issue.

    It helps to view this release and this event as the beginning of a longer process. The forum is not the only time for you to have your voice heard either, as you can call or e-mail any time to leave feedback. This feedback is not at all limited to just the odor issue.

    Our goal is to find answers to questions and to learn from the citizens so we can better address the problem. There is also the possibility for future forums or other public events. We have to accept the fact that not every question will be answered during the January 30 event, but we believe this is a good first step.

    The health department wants to resolve this situation as much as anyone, but it’s going to be a process. Rome wasn’t built in a day. As referenced in the release, the last time the health board issued a “proposed denial” of the landfill’s license, the landfill continued to operate throughout. Also, the board did NOT renew the license, so that means the landfill is operating right now without a license for 2019. You’ll notice in the release the health department is seeking legal counsel to deal with this issue. That’s just another part of this process that can aid the health board moving forward.

    The health department is more than willing to continue the dialog with the GFEC, but that also needs to be done through a group of the coalition members who are willing to meet periodically with them to discuss concerns of the entire group and then report back to the group the information they are provided.

    The health board needs to learn more about this, and you and all other concerned citizens can help by e-mailing and/or calling to leave detailed feedback.

    Reply

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