Residents of Benton Township welcomed Wednesday's court ruling that partially blocks the dumping of spent lime at a local quarry but they don’t see a quick end to the legal dispute.
Ottawa County Common Pleas Court Judge Bruce Winters has issued a preliminary injunction that prevents Rocky Ridge Development, LLC, from mixing spent lime from the City of Toledo’s water treatment plant with soil and burying it in cells at the quarry where the property is zoned for A-3 agricultural use.
But he also ruled the quarry operator is in compliance with the township zoning regulations on its property that is zoned for industrial M-3 use.
“The Defendants (Rocky Ridge Development) are digging cells or pits in the A-3 District and mixing spent lime from a drinking water treatment plant with soil and burying it in the cells,” Judge Winters wrote. “This activity does not constitute a permitted use under the Benton Township zoning regulations in an A-3 District although Defendants are properly engaged in the activity in the M-3 District of their property, at least as a conditional use.”
Judge Winters also denied a motion filed by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to intervene in the case. The agency had argued in a motion that the court lacked jurisdiction in the matter.
The EPA issued a Land Application Management Permit to Rocky Ridge Development in 2014 and amended the permit earlier this year. Attorneys for the quarry operator have filed for a writ of prohibition with the Ohio Supreme Court, repeating the contention the common pleas court doesn’t have the jurisdiction to decide the case. Judge Winters has 21 days to respond to the complaint.
Residents fear the lime sludge endangers an aquifer that is the source of their drinking water.
"The recent injunction is the first step in the right direction for Benton Township and the surrounding area. Fresh clean water is such an important part of our lives and one that is generally taken for granted. With the injunction in place there will be no more hauling of the lime sludge from the (Toledo) Collins plant into our township until the zoning issues are addressed. We all have private wells that draw from the aquifer that the former StoneCo quarry communicates with. If the aquifer becomes contaminated from the lime sludge that is being dumped, there really is no going back,” said Brenda Weidner, a member of Benton Township Quarry Dumping Opposition.
Two zoning cases against the company are also pending in Ottawa County Municipal Court.
Weidner said the group is receiving a grant from The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice to help meet expenses.