Thursday, February 28, 2002

Landfill cleanup questioned

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — Trustees and some residents are questioning whether the Skinner Landfill has been properly capped.

        At Tuesday's township meeting, resident Fred Carroll showed photographs he took showing what appears to be water leaking from under the 78-acre landfill, which abuts Skinner Creek to the west and the East Fork of Mill Creek to the south.

        “There's so much bureaucracy over this, no one knows what is going on and nothing is being done right,” Mr. Carroll, 68, complained.

        Mr. Carroll also displayed photos showing large rocks lying on top of a synthetic layer of the landfill.

        A federal consent decree outlining the cleanup process calls for an impenetrable cover consisting of consistent clay, a thick, flexible liner and 2 feet of topsoil. Rocks larger than 4 inches in diameter are not permitted. After thawing and freezing over several years, the rocks could rub against the layer, causing it to tear and leak, he said.

        The photos were presented right after officials conducting and overseeing the cleanup, including an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency project manager, told trustees the process was 99 percent complete and had been done according to consent decree requirements.

        “One has to wonder what other shortcuts you've taken,” Trustee Catherine Stoker told them. “Which comments are we to know are true and which are shaded?”

        The EPA project manager, Scott Hansen, played down the photos showing rocks on top of the layer.

        “If we missed a couple, we are not concerned about a couple of rocks,” Mr. Hansen said.

        He also said the water that appeared to be leaking from under the landfill was really coming from the top of it. But he could not provide immediate proof and was asked by Ms. Stoker to do so.

        The consent decree requires a ground-water collection trench to the south and east of the landfill to carry runoff to a county water-treatment facility, and installation wells and monitoring equipment to ensure that toxic wastes remain contained.

        In a recent interview, Elsa Skinner-Morgan also said the landfill is leaking water from underneath that is running down into the creek without first going into the trench for testing.

        “Of course it is,” said Ms. Skinner-Morgan, 84, whose late husband, Ray, ran the landfill. “It's going in the creek where it's not supposed to.” The EPA closed the landfill, off Cincinnati-Dayton Road across from Union Elementary School, in 1990 because of toxic-waste dumping there.

        Project officials agreed to investigate the photographs and the allegations and respond back to the township in about a month.


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