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Toledo Blade Editorial: Lawsuit Request Belongs in the Landfill

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Editorial: Landfill harassment

The Blade Editorial Board

Godfather tactics have come to life in Seneca County where Prosecutor Derek W. DeVine has been presented with “an offer he can’t refuse” by the Seneca County General Health District (“Seneca County prosecutor urged to sue WIN Waste,” Saturday).

The county board of health was unanimous in a vote asking Mr. DeVine to file suit against WIN Waste Innovations of Seneca County, over their Sunny Farms Landfill in Fostoria.

Fostoria citizens have been opposed to Sunny Farms since well before WIN Waste took over, with a significant local group called Residents Against Trash creating a RAT patrol monitoring for violations of health code rules.

The longstanding frustration is over trainloads of out-of-state construction debris shipped to Fostoria from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania because Ohio tipping fees are significantly lower than those states.

Federal constitutional restrictions against state law impeding interstate commerce make it impossible to simply ban out-of-state waste. Seneca County is attempting to use significant impositions by the health department as a barrier to landfill expansion local residents say is only needed because of the East Coast trash.

But, the Ohio EPA has given Sunny Farms a clean bill of health, indicating they have complied with all rules implemented to dispel the noxious rotten egg odor that once plagued the landfill.

To make regulatory war on Sunny Farms Landfill Seneca County first had to fire their health commissioner and overrule staff recommendations stating the landfill was in compliance with regulations and could not be denied a license to operate.

Seneca County has launched 238 inspections of Sunny Farms Landfill over the past three years. The county has recently imposed conditions for operation the landfill has appealed to the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission. Seneca County’s conditions are on hold while the state considers the case on an emergency basis.

While Seneca County has every right and is obligated by citizen concern to aggressively monitor Sunny Farms and use every legal tool to enforce regulations, they can not be allowed to use local political power to undermine fact-based decisions within the existing regulatory and legal structure.

Health professionals have been replaced or ignored in Seneca County so there is little hope that legal experts can convince county residents of the futility of trying to impose health department edicts that disrupt federal commerce clause decisions and state regulatory supremacy.

Reason is giving way to emotion in regard to Sunny Farms Landfill. Seneca County is overplaying its hand.

Prosecutor DeVine will need tremendous political courage to tell the unanimous board of health their lawsuit request belongs in the landfill.

Read the full editorial here.