A group of concerned citizens who have been fighting the expansion of a local landfill for over four years insist they have no intention of giving up, despite facing several recent legal setbacks.
The group, Property Owners Want Equal Rights (POWER), has been fighting the proposed expansion of Rumpke Consolidation Cos. landfill in Colerain Township.
Rumpke, which opened the landfill in 1945, wants to do an eastern expansion. The sprawling 506-acre site is commonly known as “Mount Rumpke.”
“We want to create 206 acres of additional landfill space, 85 acres of green space and 59 acres of light industrial space,” says Amanda Pratt, a company spokeswoman.
Rumpke already either owns or has permission from landowners to develop property needed for the expansion.
“Currently we already own 90 percent of the land that we want to develop on,” Pratt says. “Plus, we have consent to develop on the land that is not ours.”
But a group of Colerain Township citizens, along with Colerain Township trustees and Ohio Citizen Action, have been working to block the plans.
“We oppose the expansion because it is a nuisance to the community, causes environmental and health issues and is not necessary,” says Melissa English, development director for Ohio Citizen Action.
The environmental group says Rumpke should be focusing on determining ways to reuse and recycle garbage, as opposed to preparing more land so it can be dumped.
Rumpke's goal, adds Ohio Citizen Action, should be to become “a zero waste facility.”
“Instead of expanding the landfill, Rumpke should be hiring workers to go through the landfill and recover items that can be reused, repaired and recycled,” English says.
“Seventy-five percent of what goes into a landfill can be recycled or can be composted; instead, they are trying to expand the landfill and make it part of the community for another 35 years.”
Environmental activists say Rumpke doesn't recover waste from the landfill that can be recycled, which is the reason it's asking for the expansion.
Rumpke, however, counters the expansion is a result of the increasing amount of trash it has been receiving each year.
“Currently, the average American uses 5 pounds of trash a day,” Pratt says. “Despite how successful recycling has been, we are continuing to see waste volume increases.”
Also, Rumpke says it is the largest trash collection provider in the region and is the main landfill for the entire Tristate region.
“We service the 60-mile radius of Cincinnati, so we are the landfill for the whole Cincinnati area,” Pratt says. “There is no other facility like ours in the region.”
Critics, though, note this isn't the first time Rumpke has asked for an expansion and they worry it won't be the last.
“They have expanded several times, and the last time they expanded they said they did not want to expand again after that,” says resident Nancy Lindemood, POWER's president. “However, here they are asking for another expansion. How are we supposed to believe anything they say? The landfill has expanded and expanded. When will it stop?”
POWER and Ohio Citizen Action have been adamant in their opposition, sending more than 9,000 letters to the company in protest.
“The people of Colerain Township do not want this expansion to happen and have been vocal about their opposition,” English says. “The landfill was supposed to close in 2025 and now Rumpke wants to expand it and keep it open until 2055. This angers a lot of people.”
In an effort to stop the expansion, Colerain Township trustees have denied Rumpke’s zoning request to expand. Still, Rumpke hasn't given up on its hopes of growing.
“After we were denied our zoning request, the only other option was to go to court and ask for the appropriate zoning,” Pratt says. “The case has been taken all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court.”
In December the Ohio Supreme Court decided not to hear the case, but did rule that Rumpke is a public utility and doesn't have to comply with zoning laws.
“They told us we could proceed with the expansion and do not need the Colerain Township trustees' zoning approval,” Pratt says. “However, we are still hoping we can reach a compromise with Colerain Township and do not just want to start the expansion without getting their approval.”
Although Colerain Township trustees declined comment, POWER is pessimistic that a compromise can be reached.
“I am not sure if there can be a compromise because Rumpke has said they will not take the expansion off the table,” Lindemood says. “Just because something is legal does not mean it is good for the community. If Rumpke continues with this expansion, they will not be acting like a good neighbor and will not have the support of the Colerain community.”