Last week’s order by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for better air monitoring at the Sunny Farms Landfill south of Fostoria was a welcome development for those who live in Seneca, Wyandot or Hancock counties.
But it’s just a baby step in a process that will require continued vigilance.
Sunny Farms, a disposal for out-of-state trash, construction materials, demolition debris and speciality wastes that arrive by train, has been raising the ire of area residents for months, primarily because of smells emitting from the landfill.
The odor has been blamed on hydrogen sulfide, which can cause headaches, poor memory, tiredness and balance issues even with low exposure.
Depending on which way the wind blows, the rotten-egglike stink can extend from the landfill to Fostoria, Carey, Tiffin, Arcadia, Van Buren and beyond.
Complaints about the smelly air have occasionally surfaced at Sunny Farms since 1994, when the landfill began operation. One of two in Ohio run by Tunnel Hill Partners, based in Stamford, Connecticut, the company has also faced nuisance odor complaints at its New Lexington facility.
A recent rash of complaints and high hydrogen sulfide readings at the 510-acre dump led the Ohio EPA to direct new orders to Sunny Farm on Friday.
The requirements call for Sunny Farms to cover parts of the landfill not currently accepting waste with more soil or a plastic liner, install three new air monitors to frequently check hydrogen sulfide levels in the community, and to submit a weekly report with the data to EPA and the Seneca County Health Department.
In addition, the landfill must continue to maintain a third-party odor complaint hotline and establish a community outreach program, including a website and social media forums, and to notify the community of any malfunction, power outage or event that may cause odors beyond the facility’s boundary.
Failure to meet the requirements by certain deadlines could result in fines or sanctions.
We would hope Sunny Farms management takes the high road and complies with the EPA orders long before any deadlines arrive. Doing so would show residents the company intends to be a better neighbor and that growing health concerns are being taken seriously.
Certainly, tough sanctions, including stopping or limiting out-of-state trash until compliance occurs, and substantial fines are warranted if the EPA requirements aren’t met.
While some would like to see Sunny Farms closed, there is no indication the landfill is going to pull up stakes. Expansion permits have already been approved that one day could increase the height of the massive trash “mountain” already visible from U.S. 23.
Still, those who care about air quality and public health should keep a watchful eye on Sunny Farms to make sure the landfill follows all waste-management laws.
Residents should not be alone in the watchdog effort. The EPA, area health departments and lawmakers all have a continuing duty to hold Sunny Farms accountable.