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April 4, 2003

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Judge in CSD suit issues deadline
Settlement sought in odor complaint

Thursday, April 3, 2003


Enterprise Staff Writer

Mifflin Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Hussey was among witnesses originally scheduled to testify last week in the state's case against Columbus Steel Drum.

Hussey said he has been dealing with odor problems from the Blatt Boulevard facility -- which recycles 55-gallon drums -- for years, and was instrumental in bringing the case to court.

A hearing on the Ohio Attorney General's motion for immediate injunctive relief against the company was canceled on short notice last week because of confusion among the parties.

Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Harland Hale said he issued a continuance in the case to allow himself the opportunity to meet lawyers from both sides, and give them the opportunity to reach a settlement.

If that hasn't happened by April 2, Hale said, he has set the hearing on the attorney general's motion to begin at noon on April 9. The courtroom has been reserved for April 10 and 11 as well, he said.

"I think I just want to see an end to the odor issues and ultimately the complaint," Hussey said. "I want to see an end to the impact on area residents and I'd like to see that they (Columbus Steel Drum) are compliant from an environmental standpoint with all the appropriate laws. My main focus, though, is seeing mitigation of and a reduction in emissions to the surrounding areas."

The attorney general's office took up the case against Columbus Steel Drum after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency received more than 15 "verified" complaints against the company last year.

According to state law, verified complaints require the EPA director to conduct an investigation and, if the complaint is found to be valid, refer it to the attorney general's office for resolution. Among those who have filed this specific type of complaint are the City of Gahanna, the Jefferson Township Board of Trustees, the Mifflin Township Fire Department and the Franklin County Board of Health.

The attorney general filed suit against the company in the Franklin County Municipal Court last November.

Hussey said his department has responded to about 50 incidents related to odors from the plant since January 2001. People exposed to fumes from the plant typically complain of nausea, burning eyes, respiratory problems and headaches, he said.

During a three-day period last month, the department collected more than 70 odor complaints from people working at the McGraw-Hill Cos. facility near Columbus Steel Drum.

Both the fire department and representatives from the attorney general's office were at the McGraw-Hill facility on March 20, Hussey said.

"They were being subjected to some pretty strong odors inside their buildings," Hussey said. "Somebody reported to (the attorney general's office) that there was a major event (of a bad odor) that day and, with the hearing coming up, I think (the attorney general's office) felt it was useful to take some statements from some people."

Attorney general's spokesman Mark Gribben confirmed that representatives from his office were at McGraw-Hill taking depositions.

Gribben declined to discuss the content of those depositions or what testimony might come forward during any future hearings.

"They're playing it pretty close to the vest," Gribben said of his agency's attorneys. "This is a hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction," and "the parties did not have to trade information back and forth," he said.

Columbus Steel Drum's local plant manager, Ron Grannan, said the company has taken significant steps to resolve the odor problems.

Last fall, the company added a new emissions scrubber that captures exhaust from the plant's heavy machinery, to keep it from escaping into the air. Two more scrubbers were added in April. This year, Grannan said, the company added catalytic thermal oxidizers to its processing lines. The oxidizers, Grannan said, operate much the same way as an automobile's catalytic converter.

"It's exactly the same thing, only quite a bit bigger," he said. "We heat the catalyst and the catalyst destroys odor from there, which is the exact same thing it does in your car."

Hussey, however, said he believes the situation has not improved.

"I realize that's been one of their defenses," Hussey said. "They've stated they've changed some processes and made some changes, but I'm not sure there's any evidence that those have had an impact on the situation. Certainly, from our perspective, there hasn't been any change in the nature or frequency of the complaints."

<b>mesegaloff@thisweeknews.com



 
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