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November 1, 2002

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Columbus Steel Drum put on notice

Thursday, October 31, 2002


Enterprise Staff Writer

Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery has given Columbus Steel Drum a Nov. 8 deadline to stop sending noxious odors into the surrounding communities or or face the state in court.

"This year alone, Ohio EPA has received 15 verified complaints ... regarding those odors, among other problems," Assistant Attorney General Douglas A. Curran wrote in an Oct. 23 letter to the president of the Cincinnati-based company. "These odors need to be abated immediately."

Ron Grannon -- operations manager for the company's Blatt Boulevard site -- could not be reached for comment by press time.

Those who have filed complaints include the city of Gahanna, the Jefferson Township Board of Trustees and the Mifflin Township Fire Department.

Also on Oct. 23, the city received a letter from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in response to its complaint.

"The investigation conducted by Ohio EPA's Central District Office confirmed that the allegations contained in your complaint are valid," wrote Tammy Van Walsen, EPA environmental supervisor in the Division of Air Pollution Control. "We share and appreciate your concerns regarding the impact of CSD's operation on the health of the community in Franklin County ..."

Gahanna Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said city officials have been meeting monthly for more than a year with representatives of both townships and various state and county agencies to resolve the pollution problems.

"Obviously, we're very happy," Stinchcomb said of the attorney general's involvement. "We've had a long-time pollution problem and we want to have it resolved. It's a drain on community resources because whenever people smell this odor, which smells like natural gas sometimes, Mifflin and Jefferson township fire have to scramble."

Stinchcomb said twice this year -- in May and October when there were a particularly large number of complaints -- she has gone to the plant with township officials to ask that the operation be partially shut down. Each time, she said, the plant's management complied.

"I'll go out every time it happens, if that's what it takes," Stinchcomb said. "Again, it costs us all money when that happens."

Residents have been complaining of the smell of natural gas and burnt paint coming from the plant for years.

In January, Blacklick Elementary School was evacuated because of the odor of natural gas. In May, the Mifflin Township Fire Department had about 70 reports of natural gas odor in one day. In both instances, fire department officials said they traced the odors back to the vicinity of Columbus Steel Drum.

Gahanna Development Director Sadicka White said the letter is a positive step toward keeping the plant open and resolving the odor problems.

"Closing them down is not the goal of code enforcement," White said. "The goal of code enforcement is compliance. It's a huge endeavor because they haven't been in compliance for years."

Columbus Steel Drum uses a caustic chemical, sodium hydroxide, to clean 55-gallon drums used to store commercial products such as paint, oils and cleaning solvents. The plant processes and reconditions about 5,000 barrels a day. Barrels must have less than one inch of material left in them and cannot have been used to store pesticides, herbicides and other heavily regulated materials.

The plant was purchased by Columbus QCB Inc. in January.

Since then the company has installed two emissions scrubbers. Installation of a third was scheduled to take place in August. According to company officials, the scrubbers capture exhaust from the plants heavy machinery and keep it from escaping into the air.

Columbus QCB is owned by by Cincinnati-based Container Recyclers Inc. That company owns an operation similar to Columbus Steel Drum in Cincinnati called The Queen City Barrel Co. Container Recyclers purchased the Columbus plant from Evans Columbus Inc., which had owned it since 1997. The plant originally opened in 1971.

According to White, Columbus Steel Drum is one of Gahanna's first industrial tenants and employs approximately 400 people.

Earlier this month the EPA informed Columbus Steel Drum that it will be required to use a more stringent method of monitoring the plant's output of waste and requiring that material to be handled as hazardous waste.

<b>msegaloff@thisweeknews.com



 
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