Published: Wednesday, April 6, 2005
By Alayna DeMartini

The owners of a Gahanna factory that spewed smelly emissions for years has tentatively agreed to pay $500,000 in fines and install equipment to better filter what comes out of the smokestacks.

The owners of Columbus Steel Drum also will have to clean up on-site chemical residue to prevent it from washing into nearby streams.

Attorneys for the company and the state attorney general's office said they reached the proposed agreement yesterday in Franklin County Environmental Court.

Neighbors of the factory will have 30 days to comment before the agreement becomes final. Based on the comments, a judge could alter the agreement.

Columbus Steel Drum, which reconditions 55-gallon industrial drums, has 175 employees and is owned by Container Recyclers Inc., of Cincinnati.

Drums are emptied, flushed and scorched to burn any remaining wastes and then painted.

Residents of Gahanna, Jefferson Township and nearby East Side neighborhoods have complained of odors from the factory.

Some have complained of eye irritations and breathing problems.

Sadicka White, Gahanna's director of development, said she's skeptical that the proposed cleanup will resolve the problems.

"We know the site has contamination on it,'' White said. "Are they going to make the whole site clean? Are they not going to recontaminate it?''

Attorneys for the company say the cleanup has been under way since Container Recyclers purchased the company in 2001 and renamed it Columbus QCB Inc., though it continues to be called Columbus Steel Drum.

"It's unfortunate they inherited this situation,'' attorney Mark Belleville said.

The company has spent $500,000 in recent years to address the air-pollution issues, Belleville said.

The state attorney general's office sued Container Recyclers in 2002 after the company failed to obey state air-pollution regulations. The plant has been cited by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for air-pollution violations.

The proposed agreement calls for Columbus Steel Drum to install the additional pollution-control devices in nine to 12 months. If the devices are installed on time, the company will receive a $50,000 credit toward its $500,000 penalty.

The sooner the better for residents in the area, Gahanna Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said.

"We don't have enough hours in the day to talk about all the complaints we've gotten and the actions we've taken,'' Stinchcomb said.

"Most people will say it smells like rotten eggs,'' Stinchcomb said. Equally bad was when the odor was mistaken for natural gas, sending area firefighters on numerous runs.