Residents living near an expansion of a natural gas substation at Lallendorf and Brown roads continue to express concerns about construction at the site, including the possibility of being exposed to dangerous levels of pollution.
Bob Dunlap, of Brown Road, said at an Oregon council meeting on July 11 that a neighbor had to leave his house over the July 4 weekend because of strong odors coming from the Columbia Gas of Ohio substation.
He also said that workers at the site told him that when they dug underneath the existing building, “they were pulling up some really nasty stuff that was polluted – had chemicals in them,” said Dunlap.
“We have no idea what they were. We’d like to know. We also know they pulled asbestos out. I can’t really say they had proper containment. But I wasn’t really watching for asbestos. There’s other barrels over there that say `Awaiting chemical analysis.’ Long-term, being a neighbor, I’d like to know what was on that site, and if we were or are being exposed to anything dangerous,” said Dunlop.
Toledo Environmental Services officials were at the site talking to workers over the July 4 weekend, he said.
“They had told Environmental Services about some of the levels, but I still don’t know what they were. I don’t think anyone here does. But we were breathing it,” he said. He added that one of the neighbors had to leave her house because she was getting physically ill.
He would like to see soil borings conducted at the site to test for contaminants.
City Administrator Mike Beazley said there have been several tests conducted for dangerous levels of chemicals.
Oregon Fire Chief Paul Mullen, the BP-Husky Toledo Refinery, and Toledo Environmental Services have conducted tests that did not detect dangerous levels of toxins or pollution at the site, said Beazley.
“Folks aren’t making the smell up. That’s real,” said Beazley. “But in terms of stuff that we can test for that’s hazardous, we have not found anything with any kind of reading yet.”
Last Tuesday, Beazley told The Press that the city continues to meet with neighbors and Columbia Gas to find a resolution.
“We are working with the neighbors, and have met with Columbia Gas to continue to do what we can to make this site, which has been a challenge to neighbors for many years, more attractive and quieter,” he said. “We think we’re making some progress on that.”
Other complaints have included noise from the site that wake up neighbors on the weekends.
“I made a request we be notified if they do weekend work just as a courtesy so we know we’re going to be woken up early in the morning,” said Dunlap.
Beazley said he had reached out to a Columbia Gas official to address the noise after a neighbor sent him an email complaining about being awakened on a Sunday morning.
“I asked him if they would stop working on Sundays, period,” said Beazley. “He agreed it was a reasonable request, and he’s seeking to get an answer for that. I just asked `Could we have a day of peace?’ He thought he could get a `Yes’ on that.”
Stop work order
In May, the city issued a stop work order to the company after neighbors noticed a new heating unit at the site that was supposed to be just eight feet tall ended up being 16 feet tall. Beazley said last week that the order is still in effect, though he’s working with Columbia to have it lifted.
“We are expecting to work through the issues on the stop work order within the coming days,” Beazley told The Press.
He added that the city has limited authority to regulate utilities.
“That’s regulated by the state, and the actions Columbia are taking are within their permitted authority. So we don’t have a lot of room to make it as nice as we would like,” he said.
Councilwoman Sandy Bihn said she would like the Ohio EPA to test the soils at the site after she questioned whether proper tests were being conducted at the site.
“It just seems like this is not going well,” she said.
$4 million project
The expansion of the regulator substation that serves Oregon and parts of East Toledo is a $4 million project.
Plans include the replacement of the current substation with three new buildings surrounded by a buffer zone of trees. The company purchased property north of the site for the expansion. The company also received a variance from Oregon’s zoning commission as part of the project.
The regulator substation reduces pressurized gas before it is delivered to homes and businesses. Some of the gas flows to the refineries and supports the Jeep factory. The substation directly serves 17,000 customers. Built in 1957, the substation has never been upgraded and has long been considered an eyesore.
Columbia Gas officials last November met with several residents living near the site to address their concerns about noise, odor and the industrial appearance of the proposed buildings not blending in with the surrounding neighborhood. They worried that their property values would drop as a result. Columbia Gas sought to allay their concerns by showing renderings of the project at an architectural review committee meeting in Oregon.
In May, neighbors noticed the oversized heating unit and called the city for an explanation.
At nearly every council meeting since, residents have made inquiries about the project and its impact on their neighborhood.