Wednesday, March 24, 1999

Landfill to become refuge

BFI closing site, creating habitat

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        UNION TOWNSHIP — One species' trash site can be another species' habitat. That's the hope and plan of officials who operate Warren County's Bigfoot Run landfill, which will reach capacity and close in May.

        Browning-Ferris Industries Inc. (BFI), owners of the only landfill in Warren County, recently erected purple martin birdhouses in the wooded area surrounding the waste site in Union Township.

        Later, houses for wood ducks will be erected, fresh-water ponds for geese and other wildlife will be dug, and even the migrating monarch butterfly will have a catered landscape featuring its favorite snack of milkweed plants.

        “We have excess land. And as we are slowing down our operation so, this is a great time to get this going,” said Rob Dolder, district vice president of BFI and the local company official in charge of turning Bigfoot Run into a wildlife habitat.

        The landfill has been marked by controversy as BFI officials have tried to expand the waste site — first through county zoning appeals and then through a lawsuit against Warren County commissioners who voted in December to reject BFI's rezoning proposal.

        The lawsuit is pending, as is another filed in 1997 against officials from the nearby village of Morrow, where BFI is now concentrating on obtaining rezoning to build another landfill.

        Through numerous, often contentious, public meetings, Mr. Dolder has been candid about BFI's position that while most people don't care for landfills, they are an undeniable reality of modern life.

        He takes the same ap proach when discussing the conversion of Bigfoot Run's almost 200 acres of woods and grassy fields into an officially registered wildlife habitat.

        “It's the right thing to do,” he said.

        “And we've done this at every other place,” he said of BFI's other landfill sites around the nation.

        “The law requires us to manage and maintain this land for at least 30 years. But we are anticipating that we'll own it longer because it is unlikely we'll find a buyer,” he said. “BFI is currently maintaining some 80 closed sites around the country.”

        Nationwide BFI has close to 10,000 acres solely devoted to wildlife.

        Locally, BFI plans to spend up to $10,000 on converting the Bigfoot Run sitenorth of the Little Miami River into a nature area.

        Mr. Dolder is seeking local school groups, Scout troops and other organizations that might be interested in using the new wildlife habitat as an outdoor classroom.

        The acreage around the landfill was recently registered with the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), a nonprofit conservation group that works closely with corporations to create and maintain natural habitats.

        Bob Johnson, vice president of Maryland-based WHC, recently toured the Bigfoot Run site and came away impressed with both the habitat potential and BFI's commitment.

        “What BFI is trying to do now is look at the surrounding area and identify habitat opportunities,” he said.

        He praised Mr. Dolder for “having a really neat concept” of grasslands, man-made ponds and marsh areas.

        “As long as human beings are going to produce waste, we are going to have landfills. But it doesn't mean we can't also have a wild habitat,” Mr. Johnson said.


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