Montgomery County health officials accused Steve Rauch of improperly disposing of trash in a licensed landfill and cattle farm he owns in 2016 — two years before he was charged this week with felony counts of illegal dumping, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.
A large pile of industrial safety glass from Fuyao Glass America was improperly dumped in the Dayton landfill owned by Rauch’s company SRI, along with furniture, garden hoses, a scrap tire, motorcycle helmet and other trash, according to county health department inspections from 2016.
SRI is a licensed construction and demolition debris landfill, meaning it is allowed to receive building materials such as concrete, brick and asphalt. It is not licensed to receive household trash or material removed from the structure prior to demolition.
Inspection records obtained by the Daily News show Rauch faced accusations of dumping material at his Jefferson Twp. cattle operation, Bearcreek Farms, in 2016 and 2008. And in 2016 the health department launched an investigation into the dumping of improper materials such as carpet and wooden building materials at a property owned by the city of West Carrollton.
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SRI, Rauch, operations manager Jennifer Copeland and Bearcreek Farms are all facing felony charges of illegal dumping.
Asked by phone Friday if the health department findings were the same instances he is facing felony charges over, Rauch said: “I don’t have any clue, nor do I have any comment.” Copeland did not return a request for comment left at SRI.
Kate Hanson, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, said in an interview that “the waste you referenced (in the county inspections) is at least part of the waste referenced in the indictment.”
Rauch is a prominent local businessman and philanthropist. In addition to the landfill and cattle farm, he owns demolition and trucking companies that do millions of dollars of public and private work across the Miami Valley. And he is a multi-million-dollar donor to local charitable causes.
The indictment refers to alleged activity occurring in 2016, when Rauch had a number of dealings with county health officials over the disposal of improper material.
A September 2016 inspection at Bearcreek Farms resulted from a complaint by Jefferson Twp. officials, according to records from Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County. Health officials found “miscellaneous solid waste dumped on the ground, including but not limited to metal piping, plastic bags, plastic packaging material and automobile windshields,” according to the records.
The department accused Rauch of illegal dumping and issued a notice of violation ordering him to remove the improper material within 30 days. However, Rauch appealed the notice to Jennifer Wentzel, the county’s director of environmental health, saying he intended to grind up the wood in the material for livestock bedding and would separate out the trash and dispose of it properly.
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“It is not, and never was, Mr. Rauch’s intention to permanently dump or dispose of the alleged ‘miscellaneous solid waste’ on the subject property,” his attorney wrote.
Wentzel sided with Rauch and dismissed the violation.
The health department also responded to a complaint about dumping at the farm in July 2008. Health records show people fishing in a nearby creek reported seeing a hole 15 to 20 feet deep in a back field and dump trucks coming and going. Rauch did not allow health inspectors on the property until August, after they threatened to obtain a search warrant, records show.
No evidence of dumping was found.
The indictment also alleges that Rauch illegally dumped solid waste on a property owned by the city of West Carrollton. Rauch’s company, Steve R. Rauch Inc., was one of four companies permitted to deposit only clean fill on the property, which the city wanted to re-purpose for recreational use.
The alleged improper material from Rauch came from a nearby Holiday Inn demolition, according to Tom Hut, a health department supervisor.
“Mr. Rauch demolished the Holiday Inn and a lot of solid waste, mattresses and other non-hard fill items were found on the site,” he said.
Hut said all three sites are currently cleaned up.
Health inspectors repeatedly ordered Rauch to clean up the SRI landfill in 2016 after finding material that shouldn’t be there, according to inspection reports. In each case, it appears, the requested cleanup was done.
An April 4, 2016, inspection found a burnt trailer in the landfill, which was cleaned up within weeks. Unauthorized waste was found again in July, August, September, November and December, the reports show.
Rauch met the specified time frame for cleanup on each of these occasions, Hut said. In August 2016, Rauch provided receipts showing 29,480 pounds of unauthorized waste was moved to the Montgomery County South Transfer Station. A January 2017 inspection says SRI removed “multiple roll-off containers of unauthorized waste for proper disposal.”
In December 2016, a routine inspection found “a large pile of industrial safety glass” that Rauch employees said they were holding for Fuyao while the Moraine windshield manufacturer built a glass recycling plant.
The health department emailed back and forth with Copeland, records show, before SRI properly put the glass in large containers, according to Hut. He said it remains there to this day while SRI awaits permission from Ohio EPA to use it in gravel.
Contacted for comment on how Fuyao disposes of waste glass, and if the company still contracts with Rauch, spokeswoman Lei Shi said: “Our company will not make any comments this time.”
Inspections from 2018 don’t include findings of improper waste disposal. The health department did find evidence that landfill material may be leaching into groundwater, and in response SRI hired an engineering firm to come up with a mitigation plan, the reports show.
‘We are monitoring the criminal case’
Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County licenses landfills locally on behalf of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Because he took corrective action, his permit was renewed every year, and will likely be again in 2019, Hut said.
“We cite it as an administrative violation in the solid waste rules and we simply are seeking compliance with those rules,” Hut said. “As compliance was achieved in our presence, or some prescribed time period, we essentially stated the violations as corrected.”
Ohio EPA spokeswoman Heidi Greismer would not say whether the criminal case could impact SRI’s license.
“We are monitoring this criminal case and will take appropriate action when it is final,” she said.