The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) has taken over authority to regulate solid waste and construction and demolition debris issues in Wood County.
The Wood County Health Department voluntarily relinquished its authority this year for financial reasons, according to Dina Pierce, northwest district media coordinator for the Ohio EPA.
“County health departments can request to become what we call `approved’ health districts, which give them the lead on any solid and infectious waste issues in the counties,” explained Pierce. “Many of them are approved city and county health departments. If they choose not to do that anymore, they can ask the EPA to take it back.”
Wood County had administered the solid and infectious waste program for a number of years, she added, but bowed out due to costs.
Pamela Butler, commissioner of the Wood County Health Department, stated in a letter on Oct. 11 to Scott Nally, director of the Ohio EPA, that funding for the program has dried up. Since 1992, the Wood County Health District had administered the solid, infectious waste, composting and demolition debris programs for the Ohio EPA.
“From 1992 through 2008, we received funding from the Wood County Solid Waste Management District, which provided us with the necessary revenue to effectively support the program requirements. In 2008, this source of revenue ended, resulting in an annual loss of $85,000,” states Butler.
In 2009, an opinion from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office concluded that local boards of health do not have the authority to collect a fee, license and inspect trash hauling vehicles in Ohio, Butler noted in the letter. The decision resulted in the loss of the program and an additional loss of $14,000 in annual revenue.
“With this loss in revenue,” states Butler, “and insufficient funding in the form of license fees from Ohio EPA, the Wood County Board of Health has determined that these programs are not cost effective and should not be supplemented with tax supported levy dollars. Public health is constantly evolving and more emphasis needs to be placed on our other program areas.”
She concludes the letter by requesting that the Wood County Board of Health be removed from the Ohio EPA’s list of approved health districts. “It is the board’s intention to cease conducting all program related inspections after Nov. 1, 2012.”
A resolution passed by the Wood County Board of Health in October stated, in part, that the Ohio EPA’s laws, rules and program requirements have increased over the years “without any increase in funding to assist with complying with the increased demands of the program.”
“The Ohio EPA has the same oversight, authority and better financial resources with qualified, specialized personnel to administer its own programs than the Wood County Health District,” states the resolution.
The Ohio EPA now oversees landfills, infectious waste treatment facilities and other solid waste issues, including scrap tires and open dumping in Wood County, according to Pierce. In addition, Ohio EPA has oversight of construction and debris landfills and illegal disposal issues.
“Ohio EPA responds to all complaints we receive,” said Pierce. “Our district office is in Bowling Green, so it won’t take long for us to check things out.”
The Wood County landfill in Bowling Green and the Evergreen Recycling & Disposal landfill in Northwood will no longer be inspected by the health department.
“Previously, we would do an inspection, occasionally, but we would do it with the health department, which would be the main inspector,” said Pierce. “Now the Ohio EPA is the main inspector of those landfills.”
Residents of Wood County should contact Ohio EPA’s Northwest District Office in Bowling Green about questions or issues with solid waste in the county, according to Pierce. Anyone with questions or complaints can call (419) 352-8461 or 1-800-686-6930. To report a spill, release or environmental crime, 24 hours a day, call the spill hotline at 1-800-282-9378.