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May 16, 2003

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Columbus Steel Drum
Company joins environmental protection team

Thursday, May 15, 2003


Enterprise Staff Writer

Area residents who have been pushing for odor emissions improvements at Columbus Steel Drum said they are encouraged by the company's willingness to participate in environmental protection efforts.

According to Ohio Citizen Action program director Simona Vaclavikova, CSD has committed two of its managers to a "community hazard assessment team." The team also will include area residents, local government officials and area fire officials.

Vaclavikova's organization has helped dozens of residents form a coalition called G-J CASE, Gahanna-Jefferson Citizens for a Safe Environment.

Columbus Steel Drum officials met with G-J CASE earlier this month. According to Vaclavikova, the company agreed to share information on its processes, the chemicals stored at its Blatt Boulevard site, and its emergency management and assessment plans.

"That was the first really important step Columbus Steel Drum did by coming to the community meeting and agreeing to provide all the information they were asked for," Vaclavikova said. "We're encouraged. We see that as a way to build the trust from the community and, hopefully, create some kind of meaningful relationship so that everyone's interests are represented."

Residents have been complaining of noxious odors emanating from the 55-gallon barrel reclamation facility for years. Late last year, the Ohio Attorney General took up the case and filed suit against the company in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas' Environmental Division.

A trial date has been set for April 5, 2004.

In April, attorneys for Columbus Steel Drum and the Ohio Attorney General's office reached a partial settlement in the case. That agreement established reporting requirements and a timeline for corrective actions the company must make. It also limited the number of barrels that could be handled at the plant and the hours during which the facility can operate.

Vaclavikova said the hazard assessment team is not designed to focus exclusively on Columbus Steel Drum, since it might want to look at other companies later.

"Columbus Steel Drum is under a lot of pressure and is still in litigation," Vaclavikova said. "They know the community has been ready for a while to discuss this issue with them. They've been heard saying they want to be a good neighbor and that they have serious intentions of being a good neighbor. There wouldn't be much point to it if Columbus Steel Drum did not want to support it and designate someone to be on the team."

Columbus Steel Drum's local operations manager, Ron Grannan, could not be reached for comment this week.

However, Vaclavikova said, the company has agreed to open its doors to G-J CASE and has invited the group in for a tour on Wednesday, May 21.

"The tour is very exciting," Vaclavikova said. "I believe it definitely indicates the willingness to open up to the community and take their concerns seriously. It shows their intention to work with the community and be a fair partner in the issues that are being raised."

Also earlier this month, the Ohio Attorney General's office followed through with its plans to add 22 counts of alleged air quality regulation violations to the five in the original suit.

The amended complaint was filed with the court May 8. Columbus Steel Drum has until May 29 to respond.

<b>msegaloff@thisweeknews.com



 
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