Metro Lexus



Ill residents complain of slow state response to pollution

By CARRIE SPENCER
The Associated Press
11/13/01 6:11 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Pollutants from a chicken farm near a woman's northeast Ohio home have kept her grandchildren from visiting because of worries about their health, the woman told federal environmental regulators Tuesday.

Mary Gibson, 66, of Louisville, said the stench and airborne debris aggravates her own asthma and the allergies of her children and grandchildren.

"They're not allowed to visit Grammy," she said.

Complaints to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency brought no relief, she said.

Gibson spoke at a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing on the agency's review of the state EPA. She was followed by people complaining about slow responses over landfills and toxic discharges.

Many of the 200 spectators applauded calls to revoke state authority and laughed at answers from federal representatives.

"We're hearing from a group of people who were summoned specifically to complain about the Ohio EPA, so we're not surprised to hear that tone," state EPA spokeswoman Carol Hester said. "We don't think those situations are representative of ... what the majority of Ohioans have experienced."

The federal agency's most extensive audit on a state counterpart started in 1997 when four Ohio environmental groups asked the agency to revoke the state's authority to run federal programs.

Gibson says she complained to the Ohio EPA about air quality at Park Farms several times, only to be referred to a local health board.

"I find it amusing what the Ohio EPA goes through to not do their job," she said.

Laura Duncan, 50, asked when the federal government would take over the investigation of toxic solvents draining from a Middlefield rubber factory.

Duncan's family looked into pollution rumors after her husband, Ron Duncan, 46, was diagnosed with a degenerative nerve disorder.

The Ohio EPA in July reported it could not pin down the source of perchloroethene and similar solvents.

"We're told we have to wait because Ohio is the lead agency," Duncan said. "They're not doing anything. They're letting (pollutants) out of the drain pipe. It's running in our streets, it's running in people's yards."

Freida Schott, 39, of Beach City in northeast Ohio asked why a landfill operator fighting violations at a Cleveland site is allowed to continue its application for a new landfill in her community.

"How bad does an operator have to be before he is not allowed to continue operating?" she asked.

In its review, the federal agency examined Ohio's administration of eight federal programs, including the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, from 1995 to 2000. The EPA said it did not find enough problems to revoke Ohio's authority.

"We think Ohio is doing an adequate job but there are areas that require additional work," Tom Skinner, who directs the EPA's Region 5 office in Chicago, said Tuesday. "Ohio has already made some changes, especially in the management of its clean air programs and in allowing public participation."

Skinner said it is unlikely the EPA would revoke Ohio's authority, but if that move were taken, the state could lose federal funding. The EPA gave $60 million in grants to various Ohio agencies in 2000; most went to the Ohio EPA, Skinner said.

The state has disputed parts of the report, saying the federal agency used incorrect databases when looking at work force and inspection numbers.

The Ohio audit was unique because it reviewed several programs at once, Skinner said.

"This is as comprehensive and as time-consuming as any review we have ever done," he said. "The environmental groups did a lot of groundwork and some of their allegations were well founded."

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On the Net:

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.state.oh.us

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov

The 224-page EPA draft report is available for download: http://www.epa.gov/region5/ohioreview

The Ohio EPA response to the review is available online: http://www.epa.state.oh.us/dir/ohresp.html

Ohio Citizen Action: http://www.ohiocitizen.org

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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