Source: http://www.cantonrep.com, August 6, 2013
By: Kelli Young
More than a decade after the Stark County Health Department closed a troubled landfill in Osnaburg Township, the landfill’s owners will repay a portion of the cost to cap, clean and monitor the shuttered facility.
In a consent order filed Tuesday in Stark County Common Pleas Court, former Exit C&D Landfill operators Barbara A. and Timothy B. Williams of Bethlehem Township agreed to pay $15,000 as well as turn over the oil, gas and mineral rights for the property at 7099 Fairhill St. SW. The $15,000 will be paid in installments over the next 12 months.
In exchange, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Stark County Health Department agreed to drop a lawsuit they filed Tuesday to recoup the roughly $500,000 spent by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the $247,288 spent by the health department on the 133-acre site after the Williamses didn’t have enough money to seal and maintain the landfill properly.
The health department closed the landfill, which accepted debris from construction and demolition sites, in 2002 due to environmental concerns. The agencies continue to incur costs as inspectors must visit the site weekly to monitor the landfill’s pumping system, which prevents the snow and ice that filters through the waste from contaminating the groundwater.
Attorney Gerald L. Baker, who represents the Williamses, was out of town Tuesday and could not be reached for comment. A phone number listed for the Williamses was disconnected.
Kate Hanson, public information officer for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, said the office arrived at the $15,000 payment figure through negotiations with the Williamses and by considering factors such as the nature and number of violations involved, the Williamses cooperation and their financial condition.
She also said officials hope the royalty payments from the property’s oil and gas leases will further offset the ongoing costs to maintain the landfill. Court records show that two wells already exist on the landfill property and the Williamses signed an oil and gas lease with Chesapeake in 2011, but no well has been drilled.
Hanson said based on previous years’ payments, the states expects to receive between $10,000 to $30,000 in royalty payments during a productive year for the well.
Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Deborah Dawson, who represents the county health department, said the department would have preferred to recover all of its expenses associated with the landfill but said the payment is better than nothing.
“The AG felt that it was the best that we could do (due to) the defendant’s financial circumstances,” Dawson said.
The health department sought help from the state in 2011 after officials learned the landfill owners were making money on the property by selling the trees to a logging company and leasing the property’s mineral rights to an oil and gas company. Before then, county officials believed they couldn’t collect the money because the health department’s lien on the property had been stripped from the property’s record as part of the foreclosure process.