Tri-State Environmental Council
For immediate release:
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Teresa Mills, Buckeye Environmental Network (614) 871-1353
Terri Swearingen (304) 387-0574
Alonzo Spencer, Save Our County (330) 385-4584
Ohio EPA cannot assure citizens in the tri-state area that Von Roll/Waste Technologies Industries poses no risk to human health;
Ohio EPA report reveals, among other problems, falsification of air monitoring data in 2002
EAST LIVERPOOL -- Following citizen inquiries regarding air monitoring at the Von Roll/WTI toxic waste incinerator in East Liverpool, the Ohio EPA revealed that air monitoring data for 2002 has been called into question. An Ohio EPA report on 2002 air monitoring problems revealed that Christy D'Amico, the Ohio EPA technician responsible for air montoring at WTI, not only neglected her duties, but she also falsified data.
During a November 2002 inspection, Ohio EPA auditor John Barnhart found that the air monitors at the Von Roll/WTI incinerator, intended to collect information on emissions such as toxic heavy metals and particulates that contribute to lung problems, didn't contain filters required to capture samples. In addition, 'the probe for the SO2 [sulfur dioxide] monitor had been found lying in the dirt and gravel.' Mr. Barnhart said he had been concerned with air monitoring at WTI even before 2002. He said that in 25 years of auditing, he'd only seen problems only twice like the ones that had occurred at WTI seven (7) times in 2001 alone. Mr. Barnhart was also concerned about blocks of data that had been discarded for large periods of time, saying that since 1978, he wasn’t aware of such data loss anywhere else besides the monitors at WTI.
The Ohio EPA report states that the technician in question, Christy D’Amico, has been responsible for monitoring at WTI since late 1998. This is the time when the Ohio EPA took over air monitoring in Columbiana County after the North Ohio Valley Air Authority (NOVAA) was disbanded because of corrupt and illegal activities involving monitoring, including at Von Roll/WTI. With this knowledge, citizens are left to wonder if there has ever been accurate air monitoring at Von Roll/WTI during its ten years of commercial operation.
A 1997 Akron Beacon Journal investigative series reported on a corruption scandal involving serious air monitoring problems at Von Roll/WTI between 1994 and 1997. The series exposed air officials who were receiving secret payments from Von Roll/WTI and revealed on-going violations and scandals regarding air-monitoring equipment at the facility. During that period, NOVAA, the local air agency under contract with the Ohio EPA, was on the Von Roll/WTI payroll and monitors were not operated correctly. The scandal and subsequent conviction of some officials who were involved resulted in the dismantling of NOVAA in the fall of 1997. The Ohio EPA took over monitoring at WTI in 1998, apparently sending Christy D'Amico as the monitoring technician.
In his October 2000 investigative report, the national EPA ombudsman outlined concerns with monitoring at WTI. The ombudsman detailed a number of material errors, misrepresentations, and criminal activities on the part of NOVAA. He not only recommended an immediate shut down of the facility for at least six months until critical health and safety issues were resolved, he also found that the permit which allowed WTI to operate was based on failed test burns, corrupted monitoring, tainted data and a seriously flawed and inadequate risk assessment. He referred the case for criminal investigation. Instead of further investigation, the Ohio and US EPA allowed the facility to continue operating.
A 1993 memo shows that there were air-monitoring problems at Von Roll/WTI ten years ago. Ohio EPA toxicologist Dave Nuber wrote a confidential memo to the chief of the Ohio EPA Division of Air Pollution Control regarding monitoring at WTI.
In his 1993 memo, Dr. Nuber wrote: 'These particular sites [for monitors] appear to be chosen without concern for high human exposure receptor areas… The US EPA risk assessment did nothing to identify high concentration impact points in relation to population. I am left to wonder why somebody didn’t run a new model (possibly HEM II based on the most recent census data) showing high exposure areas. Wouldn’t this have provided the basic information we needed to assess possible monitoring sites? If this had been done then couldn’t we have placed more confidence in the monitoring data of WTI and laid to rest any objections from the residents of E. Liverpool? I realize the monitoring sites were limited by public accessibility, and security, but the use of data from these sites in a risk assessment may lead to erroneous conclusions.'
Additionally he was concerned about the lack of monitoring for chemicals of concern. He further wrote: 'It is my understanding that we will not be monitoring for any other chemicals beyond lead, mercury and VOCs. From a toxicity standpoint, I am much more concerned with PAHs, dioxins and benzene emissions than VOCs. . . . Wouldn't it be much better from a PR standpoint to be able to say 'Emissions of PAHs, dioxins, benzene and other VOCs from WTI will not present a health concern to the residents of E. Liverpool' than to say VOCs alone do not represent a health concern… Based on the above outlined concerns I would be hard pressed to properly advise you as to the significance of the data with respect to long term toxicity. Any risk assessment based on this data would be highly suspect, at best. If the agency cannot use the data to quell the health concerns of the residents, then what will we use the data for? Phil has told me that we will not do anything with the data, which begs the question: Why are we conducting this monitoring? . . . There is always the possibility that the data will 'fall into the wrong hands' and should the opponents to WTI get this information we would end up with a disaster on our hands.'
Terri Swearingen commented, 'This new information supports the national EPA ombudsman’s 2000 recommendation that this facility should be shut down until a full investigation can be conducted and outstanding health and safety issues are resolved. Accurate air monitoring is the only way to ensure that Von Roll/WTI is not exceeding emission limits. In '93 there were air-monitoring problems. From 1994 through 1997, when NOVAA was doing the air monitoring, there were problems. And now we have reason to believe that there have been problems since the Ohio EPA took over monitoring in 1998. Based on evidence of continuing monitoring problems throughout the history of Von Roll/WTI operation, how can the Ohio EPA say that Von Roll/WTI poses no risk? How can we trust anything the EPA says?'
'They’ve been telling us for years that this is the most heavily monitored and scrutinized facility in the country. Where’s the proof?' asked Teresa Mills, Director of the Buckeye Environmental Network. Additionally, she noted that, 'It seems like once anyone goes to the Ohio EPA 'satellite office' at Von Roll/WTI, problems start.'
Alonzo Spencer of Save Our County demanded a criminal investigation, saying, 'I think this rises to the level where a criminal investigation must be conducted. There should be no more stalling by the Ohio EPA or the Ohio Attorney General. This incinerator must be shut down now until a full investigation is conducted, reviewed and made public.' He further added, 'In order for the investigation to be honest, have credibility -- and believability -- it must be conducted by an independent, outside source. The health of the citizens in the Tri-State area depend on it.'
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