Residents raise stink over odor
officials are watching Columbus Steel Drum
after 71 residents
called to complain last Wednesday
By JEF BENEDETTI
Employees of the Ohio Environmental
Protection Agency will meet this week to discuss whether an air
monitoring system requested by officials from Gahanna and Mifflin
and Jefferson townships will be installed in the wake of 71
natural gas-like odor complaints made last Wednesday against
Columbus Steel Drum.
The odor was due to a power outage on a furnace scrubber
unit at the company on Blatt Boulevard in Gahanna's industrial
On that day, a temperature inversion and uncharacteristic
southeasterly winds pushed the odor north from the plant, as far
as City Hall and as far as west as Chapelfield Road on the city's
A total of 71 complaints were lodged that day with Mifflin
Division of Fire, Gahanna Division of Police and Columbia Gas,
said Mifflin Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Hussey.
The company, which recycles industrial steel drums, since
has sent a letter to Gahanna Mayor Becky Stinchcomb and other
parties regarding the source of the odor, its environmental
manager Holly Vail said.
Vail said Columbus Steel Drum will install several
packed-bed scrubbers as a result of the complaints. It also will
replace water in one process daily, instead of every other day.
Additional cleansing chemical use and controls are being
contemplated, she said.
The problem started when the scrubber unit on a furnace
lost power but the furnace, used in part of the process to clean
and re-use the steel drums, kept operating. Vail said the
connection of electricity of the two units is set to be completed
this week. In the event power is lost to either unit in the
future, neither unit will function.
An alarm that notes when a power loss occurs also is being
installed, Vail said.
Mike Ebner, spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Protection
Agency, said the company has received six "notices of violation"
related to its air quality permit. A seventh presently is being
drafted as a result of an April 16 inspection.
"They've always responded" to the notices, Ebner said, but
sometimes the responses have not included requested compliance
plans and schedules.
In part to address problems such as what occurred last
Wednesday, an interdiction team of officials from public agencies
in the city and townships, the state and Franklin County was
formed two years ago, said Sadicka White, Gahanna development
"I thought our department was going in the right direction
in terms of dealing with complaints, up until (last Wednesday),"
"It's a matter of some concern for city, obviously, in
terms of city's top priority, which is the health, safety and
welfare of the community," she said.
White said the interdiction team will meet again "in the
very near future" to review last week's events and discuss
possible followup action.
Some citizens already have taken action, according to
Simona Vaclavikova, spokeswoman for Ohio Citizen Action in
Columbus. After an odor event earlier this year, the watchdog
organization, which counts 100,000 members in the Buckeye state,
started a letter-writing campaign to Columbus Steel Drum. About
1,300 letters have been received and forwarded to the company
Vaclavikova said members she's spoken with have indicated
the company responded to each of their letters, which she said
owner Edward Paul said he would do.
"Paul told me that he wants to be a good neighbor,"
The spokeswoman said Paul told her he was aware of the
pollution, but attempted to blame it on previous owner Sidney
Blatt, who still owns the Gahanna site's land. The watchdog group
has suggested the addition of equipment to help mitigate problems,
"We don't have any future meetings scheduled, but
communications have been established," she said.
Hussey said odor complaints in the area have been "on the
rise" the past six months.
"People are mistaking this for a natural gas leak," he
If the fire department believes it is a gas leak, it sends
no fewer than four vehicles, the same response as for a structure
The odor complaints are "overtaxing our emergency
resources," Hussey said.
Stinchcomb said she thought about issuing a public alert
until the company agreed to close down the part of the operation
for the day that was causing the odor to be released.
"I hope we can come to a good resolution of this,"
Stinchcomb said. "The health of the citizens of Gahanna is
Stinchcomb, who was alerted to the smell by emergency
management director Jim Williams, said she went to Columbus Steel
Drum last Wednesday to voice the city's dissatisfaction with the
event. She also had another message.
"We're watching," Stinchcomb