The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) confirmed Monday, July 12 that since last month it has been investigating a waste spill in Raccoon Creek originating from a treatment site owned by a sanitation company in Vinton County, adding that a cleanup process is still ongoing.
On June 8, following a complaint filed two days earlier indicating the possibility of the presence of sewage in Raccoon Creek, representatives from the Ohio EPA conducted a site visit to a land application field — areas used for the treatment or disposal of waste — owned by A2Z Sanitation near State Route 328.
The OEPA contacted Todd Zuspan, owner of A2Z Sanitation, who told agents that his crews had applied over 100,000 gallons of waste to its permitted land application fields around June 1, adding that heavy rainfall affected the site, flushing waste from the land application fields off the property and into Raccoon Creek. Zuspan also told the OEPA that his company began to utilize a disc within its fields to help prevent additional runoff.
However, the OEPA observed “extremely heavy” bacterial growth at the bridge crossing on State Route 328 near Mitchell Hollow Road, indicating that the release of waste into the creek may have been occurring for “at least three to four weeks, if not longer.”
Additionally, “residual staining” found on the banks of a roadside ditch that was higher than the level of grease found in the ditch at the time of inspection indicated that the discharge of material into the creek was “likely not a one time event,” according to the OEPA.
Following its investigation, the OEPA found A2Z Sanitation in violation of 13 different Ohio environmental laws, regulations and conditions of their land application permit with the OEPA. Thousands of gallons of grease and septage entered Raccoon Creek, according to James Lee, a media relations manager for OEPA.
Lee added that A2Z Sanitation has stopped accepting waste, focusing instead on efforts to collect free oils and grease on Raccoon Creek. When contacted about the spill by The Courier over the phone, Zuspan refused to comment at the time, later providing a written statement via email.
“My company considers itself a good neighbor to all the people that live in our community, and I have always complied with all the rules and regulations that the EPA requires to make sure that local citizens, and our environment, remain safe,” Zuspan wrote.
A2Z Sanitation has 50-acres of land in which it is permitted to apply waste to, but, according to a notice of violation from the OEPA, the sanitation company accepted “roughly twice the amount of liquid waste” allowed to be land applied.
Other violations include failing to report the discharge into Raccoon Creek via OEPA’s spill hotline, applying sewage and grease improperly to the permitted land application fields and failing to maintain records of how much waste is applied to the fields. The OEPA also noted significant pooling of liquids across A2Z Sanitation’s fields, another violation.
One resident who lives next to the creek, who wished to remain anonymous, said “As far as I know, behind my house, nothing is alive right now.”
In a written statement, Zuspan said that he was contacted by the OEPA following a severe rainstorm over concerns that the rain runoff caused by the storm could pose a threat to the environment.
“Because I live here and work here and want to stay here to raise my family, I am firmly committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to make sure that any environmental impact is minimal and, if mitigation and cleanup requirements are suggested, that I will complete those to the best of my ability,” he wrote.
“Finally, I am deeply saddened that a few of my neighboring community members would misstate the scale of this issue and try to use the same as an opportunity to hurt my name and business. They are trying to needlessly scare local citizens for their own benefit. I will, as I always have, continue to cooperate with all governmental agencies and do as required to make sure all of us have a clean and safe environment in which to live, work and play.”
A2Z Sanitation has until July 31 to provide the OEPA documentation with any steps it has taken or will take to resolve violations.
Zuspan could not be reached for further comments before the time of publication.
William Meyer is the Editor at The Vinton-Jackson Courier.