Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Waste station back in picture

'Environmental justice' concept cast into doubt

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Despite protests from neighbors and environmental groups, the city of Cincinnati may lack the legal authority to stop a privately run waste transfer station from being launched at the recently closed ELDA landfill in Winton Hills, city officials said Tuesday.

        A memo from the city's Office of Environmental Management indicates that the Cincinnati Board of Health may not be allowed to use a concept called “environmental justice” to block a private business.

        Earlier this year, city officials used that concept to promise that any city-run waste transfer station would not be built in Winton Hills or Lower Price Hill.

        The environmental justice concept implies that federal civil rights laws could be used to fight environmentally harmful projects located in or near minority neighborhoods.

        The Cincinnati Environmental Advisory Council cited environmental justice in its Oct. 10 recommendation to deny a waste transfer station permit to Waste Management Inc. Cincinnati City Council also cited the concept in a resolution related to the proposed transfer station that passed in April.

        However, the key authority to approve or block the station rests with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. So far, that agency has not allowed environmental justice considerations to be factored into its decisions, wrote Dennis Murphey, director of the city's Office of Environmental Management, in an Oct. 9 memo to the health department.

        Neighbors who attended Tuesday's Board of Health meeting said they fought for years to get the ELDA landfill closed, only to face living with hundreds of trash trucks per day driving back into their neighborhood to repackage the waste to be hauled to other, more distant landfills.

        “Where is the responsibility of the health board to say enough is enough?” said Marilyn Evans, a member of Communities United for Action.

        The Cincinnati Board of Health is expected to vote on the transfer station later this year, once Waste Management completes required paperwork.


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