A proposed multi-million-dollar, class-action settlement has been reached between neighbors of the Stony Hollow Landfill and its owners over the alleged emission of noxious pollutants dating back years.
“The residents really endured a lot of inconvenience by those terrible odors,” said David Hicks, who fielded hundreds of calls about the odors in 2016 and sought a solution — going so far as to ask Montgomery County to take its trash elsewhere — before he retired as Moraine city manager.
In a tentative agreement, Stony Hollow, owned by Waste Management, agreed to a settlement fund of $1,875,000 as well as to put another $1,450,000 by the end of 2022 toward further improvement measures to minimize the the impact of airborne emissions from the landfill. Attorneys’ fees could reach up to $795,000 of the settlement fund, according to a court documents.
Moraine and Jefferson Twp. residents lodged hundreds of odor complaints against the Dayton landfill, growing more frequent in April 2016 and remaining persistent. Foul odors also spread as far as Dayton, Jackson Twp., Kettering, Miamisburg, Oakwood and West Carrollton. In November 2016, Moraine resident Carly Beck filed the federal class-action suit joined by 100 others. Neither Moraine nor other municipalities were part of the suit.
A court must still approve the proposed settlement reached last month. Stony Hollow Landfill acknowledges no wrongdoing nor liability related to the case.
The proposal to end the federal lawsuit doesn’t illuminate the core cause of the foul odors, which are now seemingly held in check by the combination of gas extraction wells and a membrane that covers 13.5 acres landfill – steps the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required the owner to take in December 2016.
But some fear the stench will return if Waste Management is allowed to put the entire landfill back to use — an outcome that is the subject of a yet unresolved appeal of an Ohio EPA order by the city of Moraine.
“They have been doing their best with available technology to try to mitigate the odor issues … The frequency in which we receive those complaints is down drastically over the last several months,” said Bryan Chodkowski, Moraine’s new city manager. “Not knowing what is causing the concern in detail with specificity, for Waste Management to have the opportunity to remove the cover and begin utilizing the full facility, we think is not prudent.”
A Waste Management spokeswoman said the company was pleased to reach a resolution.
“This settlement is part of Stony Hollow’s overall efforts to control odors and to operate in compliance with all permit and regulatory requirements,” said Tanisha Sanders, director of government affairs and communications.
Property owners and renters at any time since Oct. 31, 2012, living roughly within a roughly 2.5-mile radius of the landfill at 2460 South Gettysburg Road have until Sept. 9 to submit a claim. People can exclude themselves, comment or object to the settlement on or before August 25.
Plaintiffs signing onto the settlement will not give up their right to sue again for medical harm or personal injuries.
The lawsuit sought in excess of $5 million, claiming Stony Hollow “failed to sufficiently collect, capture, and destroy landfill gas generated at its landfill to prevent fugitive emissions and to otherwise prevent odors from the landfill from invading the homes and property.”
How the landfill’s owner might spend the $1.45 million that would be required to help mitigate the problem is unknown but welcome, Chodkowski said.
“Any money that’s spent by Waste Management to resolve this issue is money well spent in our opinion,” he said.