Columbus Steel Drum:
Good-neighbor campaign

Simona Vaclavikova, Columbus area director
Ohio Citizen Action

A good-neighbor corporate campaign involves citizens in decisions that neighboring area industries are making. Communities and the work force must have commitments to improve the community relations of the local industry, as well as consumer and environmental goals, such as pollution prevention.

Good-neighbor campaigns are never undertaken by only one group. A lead organizing group, like Ohio Citizen Action, works to involve citizens, other local organizations, labor unions and workers, churches, and elected officials, to name a few. The campaign is most effective when a diverse coalition is brought together to work for concrete changes to our quality of life.

Campaigns for safer neighborhoods

Many citizens and community groups have been frustrated by unacknowledged concerns and lack of enforcement on environmental laws at the local and state level. Ohio Citizen Action has worked with these groups over the years on our shared goals of more citizen participation, corporate accountability and preventing harmful pollution from reaching our neighborhoods.

Goals

  1. Stop particular pollution problems and risks
  2. Establish ongoing accountability to neighbors
  3. Continue to create examples of good neighbor companies in our region

Strategy

  1. Work with neighbors and workers to expand the campaign


  2. Engage the company directly using community letters, meetings, public hearings, media, and other methods


  3. Inform and motivate neighbors and general public to take action


  4. Use following tools and information to complete a 'citizens audit' of the facility and demand changes important to our community:

    • Public documents relating to accidental releases; inspections; air, soil, and water tests; emergency responses made to the facility; and any other public records specific to the company
    • Right-to-Know laws
    • Toxic Release Inventory information
    • Evacuation and chemical accident risk planning laws
    • Company-specific problems and issues
    • Other information important for citizens and neighbors to use

  5. Pressure local and state officials to help pressure compnay


  6. Get the media involved

Columbus Steel Drum Corporation

Columbus Steel Drum is an 18-acre facility located at the eastern tip of Columbus. It has been in operation since 1955. The facility reconditions used 55-gallon drums for resale at a rate of 4,000 – 6,000 drums a day. Containers can have up to one inch of hazardous chemical residue left in them. As part of the process, the drums are decontaminated in gas-fired furnace, caustic cleaned, sprayed and repainted.

Columbus Steel Drum had changed ownership over the last decade. Its headquarters moved back to Columbus last year and the current owner also operates Queen City Barrel facility in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Since the 1980's, Columbus Steel Drum has been an ongoing violator of environmental laws.

On February 25, 1980, a spill of 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of hazardous waste sludge from the facility was documented. The released sludge entered the Blacklick Creek, freely accessible to public and animals. Ohio EPA’s soil and water sampling revealed elevated levels of lead, zinc, phenol, cadmium, and chromium. Sampling of the storm water holding pond by Ohio EPA also indicated elevated levels of various volatile and semi-volatile organic chemicals (VOCs and SVOCs), and elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and cyanide.

The Jefferson Township Water Treatment Plant and its water supply wells are located approximately 1000 feet to the northeast of the facility. There are also numerous private wells in the area that are used by citizens but have not been tested.

Throughout the 1980's, site inspections showed continuing evidence of dangerous chemicals present at the site. The release of these chemicals to the soil in at least seven different areas had been documented. U.S. EPA’s assessment of contamination at the site and its potential effects on people indicates that dangerous metals and cancer causing chemicals freely migrate from this facility through two major pathways -- air and ground water. The hazardous ranking score at the site was high enough to meet Superfund (top-priority) clean-up standards.

Neighbors have suffered from odors and plumes and nearby businesses and two schools have had to be evacuated. Metals such as lead, chromium, cadmium, zinc, etc mostly affect the human nervous system. Many other chemicals present at the site such as pyrene can cause cancer.

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