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East Liverpool officials on the spot
at EPA hearing again

        

September 25, 2000

Jo Ann Bobby Gilbert
Columbiana County Morning Journal

EAST LIVERPOOL -- City officials who attended Saturday's public hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency's treatment of Waste Technologies Industries received a surprise: They were expected to be part of the proceedings.

During the hearing, a panel was listed on the agenda composed of Mayor Dolores Satow and council members James Buckley and Greg Wycoff, but Buckley was not in attendance, and Wycoff said he was unaware that he was supposed to participate.

Wycoff, who serves as council's WTI liaison chairman, said he had "no intention" of sitting on a panel when he showed up for the hearing and said he had not received any prior notification that it was expected of him.

"I heard about (the hearing) in passing, but since the allegations were directed toward WTI, I didn't feel my committee needed to attend," Wycoff said, and said that, in the future, official notice should be given city officials if they are expected to be on the agenda.

Spencer Hanes, part of the investigative team from the ombudsman office, said Mayor Dolores Satow had suggested Wycoff be on the panel.

Satow said afterward that she had given a list of council members but also said she was not aware until she arrived that a panel was to be formed.

During her remarks, Satow said her greatest concern is for the city's safety and said, "I hope I don't come across as careless or that I just want the money (from WTI tipping fees). We rely a lot on the EPA, almost solely. They have done a good job, but, naturally, things can foul up, but I'm not privy to that in this case."

Saying she has toured the plant, Satow said, "From what I've seen, been told, and read, it is safe," and likened it to Crucible Steel in Midland or the former Quaker State (now Ergon) across the river, saying, "It's as safe as Quaker State that puts fumes in the air so bad that you can't breathe sometimes. The problem is the hills. The city is as safe (regarding pollution) as any place. I have no more worries about WTI than any other companies causing pollution."

Satow continued, "We can find fault with everything, from the fumes coming from cars on down. In this case, the EPA said WTI was safe and gave it its permits, and we welcome WTI to the city."

Referring to remarks made earlier by an opponent about the company donating to various activities and organizations, Satow said other companies do the same and said, "I'm glad they take an interest in the city."

The monthly tipping fees paid to the city was a focus of Saturday's hearing, with some opponents alleging that the company holds them over the city's head because there is no signed contract stating it has to pay them.

"Evidently, someone entered a contractual agreement with this company, with fees to be paid. Do you have a contract?" Traficant asked the mayor.

Satow said, "The paper in my office is supposed to be a contract. The city has signed it, but WTI has not. It is there. Why is it not signed, I don't know, but WTI has honored it."

Asked by Traficant how the city knows how much tonnage is going through the plant, Satow replied, "We don't."

The city is paid $10 per ton by the company, and it was pointed out by one opponent that the city now relies on that funding for its operations.

Councilman Bill Hogue, who serves as the city's finance chairman, said the city saw the tipping fee initially as a good source of funding for hazardous material equipment, adding, "When we could not agree to have it signed, the city was concerned, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the tipping fee has been paid."

Initially, the monthly tipping fee was set aside to purchase a hazmat truck and equipment but today is placed in the general fund, where it can be earmarked for many uses, including hazmat equipment.

At a recent finance meeting, the committee agreed to take money from capital improvements to replace hazmat equipment which had been destroyed in an incident, because there is no line item in existence for such hazmat equipment.

Hogue said after the meeting he would like to see such a line item created once current financial problems concerning Local Government Funds are resolved.

Traficant asked the two council members if they were on council "when this unsigned piece of paper came about," and asked, "Did you ever report that it wasn't signed? Did you notify me in writing?"

Hogue said he didn't think Traficant served this district at the time and said that the issue was "widely reported in the press," but that he, personally had not reported the situation.

Traficant expressed disbelief that the city would not have a signed contract, saying, "Good fences make good neighbors. You need a signed contract and a record of what's coming in and going out. This is a lose-lose crew. I recommend you get a contract and start monitoring what's coming in and out of there."

However, when the panel was convened by WTI, plant Manager Fred Sigg said there is, indeed, a signed contract and it was presented for the record.

At one point, Wycoff and Traficant went head to head as Wycoff apparently took exception to Traficant's questioning about what the city does and does not know about the company.

"We just listened to eight constituents who brought out a map (showing cancer rates). I want a yes or no answer in lieu of this complaint. Have you ever asked the EPA what the emissions are or the status of the plant's capacity?" Traficant demanded.

Hotly, Wycoff said he would not offer just a yes or no, saying the city health department is responsible for such issues.

"This hearing is about allegations against the EPA, and I was not aware the EPA is under the city. We certainly protect this city," Wycoff stated.

"It's not the role of city council to determine whether or not WTI should exist. If it is not as dangerous as the opponents say, or not as safe as the company says, someone needs to be in the middle to steer the course," Hogue said, referring to council.

Traficant chastised, however, "When WTI came into being, the city had a hell of a say. You could have rezoned that property if you wanted to."

The WTI panel also answered some questions by Traficant about the tipping fee, with Sigg saying it fluctuates a little but averages around $600,000 per year.