Tunnel Hill landfill gets permit renewal after $3.7M state settlement

Dive Brief:

  • After previously signaling plans to deny a permit renewal for Sunny Farms Landfill, the Seneca County General Health District’s board voted unanimously to approve it on Aug. 5, as reported by The Toledo Blade. A denial could have forced the landfill’s closure.
  • The site, owned by Tunnel Hill Partners, has been mired with odor complaints and regulatory scrutiny for months. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency issued an enforcement action against the landfill on Jan. 31. The agency, along with Attorney General Dave Yost, reached a $3.7 million settlement with the site operators on July 26.
  • Health board members made their decision after reviewing the agreement and details on improvements underway, according to The Courier. Recent efforts include building new wells, pipes and vaults to capture and collect gas for flaring, and a different cover technique. The landfill must also add a community outreach program, including a social media forum, per the Ohio EPA enforcement action.

Dive Insight:
Tunnel Hill estimates the Sunny Farms site has more than 75 years’ worth of capacity remaining, making this year’s events an important turning point to keep it operating.

“We’ve spared no expense to eliminate potential odors at the landfill,” Tunnel Hill Senior Vice President Matt Neely told Waste Dive, without providing a specific figure.

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Neely noted health board members toured the facility in late July, which district staff confirmed.

Sunny Farms has agreed to pay $1.71 million to resolve alleged violations of water, solid waste and air pollution control laws. $1.1 million will be paid to the Ohio EPA and $600,000 will be held in a community trust created for the host city of Fostoria. The landfill will also pay an additional $2.01 million for “underreported and mischaracterized” fees associated with waste entering its facilities.

“We appreciate Ohio EPA’s willingness to work cooperatively with us to resolve these issues, as well as health district’s [sic] willingness to take these improvements into account in its consideration of Sunny Farms’ license renewal application,” Neely said. “We’re committed to maintaining the best practices now in place at Sunny Farms and look forward to continuing to work closely with these agencies in the future.”

Health board members did not respond to interview requests prior to publication, and district staff did not respond to questions about any concerns moving forward.

The Ohio EPA confirmed to Waste Dive that odor issues are being addressed with the landfill’s improved gas extraction and better cover systems.

“We now have a clear plan moving forward, with the full backing and authority of the court, to ensure that short and long term [sic] environmental issues at Sunny Farms are effectively addressed,” said Director Laurie Stevenson via email.

Tunnel Hill describes itself as the “largest integrated waste-by-rail company” in the country. Sunny Farms is one of two major landfills the company owns in Ohio, both of which import high volumes of waste from throughout the Northeast. Combined with a transfer station network, among other assets, the company was seen as attractive enough for Macquarie Infrastructure Partners to acquire it in February.

SOURCE: Waste Dive