Costs rising in dispute over Dayton landfill’s odors

Costs are rising for two sides seeking to end a Dayton landfill’s odor issues that have drawn complaints across Montgomery County for more than a year.

Moraine may spend as much as $50,000 in legal fees in the city’s latest push to resolve the smells from Stony Hollow Landfill that intensified in the spring of 2016, City Manager David Hicks said.

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Landfill owner Waste Management Inc. declined to specify how much it has spent so far to resolve the problem. Hicks said company representatives have told him the amount is at least “several million dollars.”

Waste Management Regional Government Affairs Director Tom Horton acknowledged only that the company — which reported $3.44 billion in revenue in the first three months of 2017 — has made a “significant investment” to contain odors at the South Gettysburg Avenue site.

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Moraine has been an advocate for several jurisdictions from which odor complaints have been lodged, including Dayton, Jefferson Twp., Kettering, Miamisburg, Oakwood and West Carrollton.

Earlier this month Moraine — where most of the hundreds of complaints originated — appealed the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s May 3 orders and findings for Stony Hollow. The appeal to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission was made, in large part, because the state directives did not specify a root cause for the high temperatures linked to the odors, officials said.

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“We’re using our time, resources and energy. It’s kind of disappointing to be doing it for this long,” Hicks said at a Stony Hollow forum Moraine held last month. “It’s costing us real money. But at the end of the day, somebody’s got to accept responsibility and represent the citizens.

“We’ve got some really nice people calling that are really upset,” he said. “They can’t go out in their yard. So they can’t enjoy their life.”

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Other communities affected by the landfill odors have talked about assisting with legal expenses, a move to which Moraine would be receptive. But Hicks said the landfill issue was too pressing to wait on deciding on a multi-jurisdiction legal strategy.

The May 3 OEPA orders include increasing odor surveillance around the landfill, conducting multiple random odor surveys each week at specific sites, Ohio EPA Spokeswoman Dina Pierce has said.

Agency Director Craig Butler also ordered Stony Hollow to take steps to reduce odors by installing a temporary cap over the reaction area and installing odor controls on the landfill’s leachate tanks.

RELATED: Odor complaints have county studying other landfill sites

By summer’s end, the cap is required to cover an 18.5-acre section of the landfill’s affected area, Ohio EPA documents show.

“Initially, they were putting a cover ….on 13.5 acres,” Hicks said. “Now they’re going to put it on an additional 5 acres. And they’re telling us that this cover costs several million dollars. So I’m sure they’re placing it there because it’s a problem. They wouldn’t do it otherwise.”

The money being spent by Waste Management goes beyond the Ohio EPA’s orders for Stony Hollow, according to Horton.

RELATED: County has no immediate plans to stop hauling waste to landfill

“A significant investment has been made to enhance the landfill’s gas and liquid extraction capabilities,” he said. “And we’re also funding research with industry experts on elevated temperatures and how to best respond to similar situations when they occur.”

The 5-acre cap extension “is a proactive measure that should further enhance our control of odors,” according to Horton.

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The work is expected to begin this month and conclude by the end of August, he said.

The cap will remain in place until the Ohio EPA determines with the appropriate data and testing that the area has stabilized, according to Horton.

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