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Columbus Suburban News
October 2, 2002

Residents, groups meet to fight alleged polluter
Columbus Steel Drum's pollutants are causing breathing problems and fouling water supplies, meeting attendees say


Columbus Steel Drum still is under the gun from local citizens' groups and governmental bodies.

More than 30 people were on hand at New Horizons Community Church in Blacklick on Thursday to discuss ways to address air and water pollution allegedly caused by the company's facility on Blatt Boulevard. The company's 18-acre facility reconditions 55-gallon steel drums for resale. The drums are cleaned in a gas-fired furnace, spray-cleaned and repainted.

That process, some citizens say, is an unhealthy one. Many in attendance at the meeting gave first-hand accounts of respiratory infections they believe were caused by the company. Some, like Clara Bennett, gave an account of a "metallic taste" in her mouth during times of high pollution by the company.

"When you can't even get to your car from the building, that's pretty bad," said Bennett, who works at McGraw-Hill, located directly behind Columbus Steel Drum.

Members of Ohio Citizen Action launched a letter-writing campaign regarding the odors coming from Columbus Steel Drum. That campaign netted more than 7,000 letters from the community.

In August, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency cited Columbus Steel Drum with its seventh notice of violation related to its air quality permit.

Among the groups represented at the meeting are the city of Gahanna and the Jefferson Township Fire District. The fire district has filed a 60-day letter of intent to sue. The city of Gahanna has launched a special interdiction team to address the matter.

While air pollution is seen as a problem, some at the meeting saw another pressing issue: water pollution. Paul Wenning of the Franklin County Health Department said the area east of Columbus Steel Drum could be in danger, most notably the village of Blacklick.

Though such pollution to the water system still is only speculation, Wenning said older wells in the Blacklick area are more susceptible to contamination.

"We're trying to develop a sampling program for the village of Blacklick," Wenning said.

However, such a program could prove expensive, costing as much as $1,000 a well for what could be 30-40 wells in the area.

"This sampling, because it is so extensive in terms the number of chemicals, is expensive," Wenning said.

Such sampling would include tests for cadmium, mercury, chromium, arsenic and cyanide -- all of which the EPA found on the site of Columbus Steel Drum.

As funding options are explored, Ohio Citizen Action plans to go door to door in an effort to count the number of wells being used for drinking water in the area. The group said it hopes a small number of wells then can be tested to determine if contamination has occurred.

Columbus Steel Drum was fined $21,400 in July by the city of Columbus' Department of Public Utilities Division of Sewerage and Drainage for exceeding limits in the company's discharge permit.

More information is being sought on odors coming from Columbus Steel Drum. Odor surveys for residents of Gahanna and Jefferson Township are available at the Jefferson Township Hall, the Jefferson Fire Station and Gahanna City Hall.