A Smelly Situation

 A Smelly Situation

Stony Hollow Landfill lawsuit results in payments to nearby residents for years of stench

By Dana Walczak

If you have ever driven past a landfill on a hot August day you know it is not a pleasant smell. Imagine living with that smell wafting into your kitchen windows every day.

All. Day. Long.

And then imagine how you would feel if that mixture of carbon dioxide, methane and any number of noxious fumes took over your property for years.

That’s what thousands of residents of Moraine, Jefferson Township, Kettering, Miamisburg, Oakwood and West Carrollton endured for years before a federal class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of Moraine resident Carly Beck in November 2016 against The Stony Hollow Landfill Inc.

More than 2,000 residents in the area surrounding the landfill at 2460 S. Gettysburg Road in Dayton signed onto the lawsuit in hopes that something would be done to get rid of the odors that lingered constantly, but especially during the hot Dayton summers.

The 169-acre landfill has been a source of contention for many area residents for decades. According to the complaint, the plaintiffs argued that through its management and operation Stony Hollow, owned by Waste Management, was negligent and allowed the landfill to stink up the place for years by not having adequate gas traps and measures designed to trap the heat generated during decomposition.

Because of the extreme number of complaints Stony Hollow received beginning in 2016 the landfill, which takes in more than 1,100 tons of waste per day, had to go as far as to create an “odor control” hotline.

Additionally, because the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Montgomery County Health Department and the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency were taking enforcement action against the company they entered into an agreement with those organizations to remedy the odor problem with an “Odor Management Plan” which was revised in 2017.

In the lawsuit, while denying any wrongdoing or liability, Stony Hollow agreed to a settlement on June 8, 2018, in order to end the litigation process. Preliminary approval was given to the settlement on July 12, however, the final judgment and order did not become final until it was signed by U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Rose at the end of November.

According to the agreement, the Waste Management-owned site will have to shell out $793,000 in attorneys fees to the law firm of Liddle and Dubin P.C. of Detroit, Michigan, and $1.87 million to the plaintiffs. Additionally, it will be required to pay the class representative an additional $5,000 for her efforts. The funds from the settlement will be split between a maximum of 2,039 people—about $919 per person. Requests for payments have already been filed and no others will be accepted.

Waste Management has been required to spend $1.45 million before the end of 2022 on measures designed to reduce odor emissions from the landfill.

Those requirements include installation of additional gas collection and control devices, as well as a temporary synthetic capping material.

According to Kathy Trent, senior public affairs director at Waste Management, many of the improvements outlined in the settlement have already been implemented.

“We have completed the collection network and the installation of the gas collection systems, piping and we have a cap on the area that we have determined was responsible for the odors,” Trent says.

“So now what we have agreed to do, in addition to that activity, is continue to install more gas control and to make sure that the system keeps working,” she says.

Many of the improvements that were agreed upon in the settlement had already been implemented before the suit ended as a result of the action taken against Waste Management by the Ohio EPA in 2017.

While they were not party to the class-action suit, the Ohio EPA has been well aware of the stink for years, beginning temperature readings on wells of interest in 2002.

As part of the plan, installation of the landfill gas extraction wells and infrastructure, and installation of the 5-acre cap and its pipe boot and vacuum pressure system were required to have been completed in August of 2017.

The cap, according to Trent, is a temporary structure that is meant to cover an area to collect gas, which is then extracted and destroyed in its gas flare system.

Additionally, the plan requires regular monitoring and inspection of the systems as well as of the heat temperatures throughout the landfill.

Such monitoring includes conducting multiple odor surveys each week at random intervals throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening hours at specified wells of interest.

Also, it is the EPA’s stance that in order to reduce the odors small work areas should be used when the trash is dropped off and compacted and that the areas be covered at the end of every work day and regular inspections be conducted by the Montgomery County Health Department.

According to Dina Pierce, the Ohio EPA’s media coordinator in the Northwest and Southwest Districts, “Waste Management, which operates the landfill, is currently in compliance with the requirements of the enforcement action Ohio EPA took in 2017.”

So while $919 dollars may not seem like much to some, the fact that nearly $1.5 million of the settlement will be invested into making the area cleaner and safer for residents is a big step.

And because the majority of the original issues with the odor have been resolved or modified the money will go toward improvements to make things better rather than playing catch up.