NEW RUSSIA TWP. — When their pond was inundated with seagulls in August, Melissa and Ron Novak suspected trash blown from the nearby Lorain County Landfill was contaminating it.
With the 3-acre, 22-foot-deep pond now frozen, the Novaks say their suspicions have been confirmed. On Wednesday, chicken bones, documents with personal information and a used condom were among the trash on the pond.
The Novaks said the refuse is coming from the dump across the street from their 80-acre property at 43200 Butternut Ridge Road and about 1,400 feet from the pond. Ron Novak, 46, said he has lived on the property since his family bought it around 1971.
The property includes a farm with two cows and five horses. The Novaks said the pond is used by hundreds of people during the summer, including for baptisms by churches.
“We take pride in what we have,” Ron Novak said as he stood by the pond Wednesday. “It doesn’t look like it right now because there’s trash everywhere,” Melissa Novak said.
Neighbors have long complained about stench and trash from the 1,400-acre dump at 43502 Oberlin-Elyria Road which opened in 1984 and accepts an average of 4,000 tons of waste daily. The facility’s stench led to a $450,000 fine issued to Republic Services by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in March.
Bio Energy Development Inc., which converts methane gas from the landfill into electricity, was fined $50,000. The fines were in response to 360 neighbor complaints since 2003.
Republic has proposed expanding the dump’s capacity, which would extend its life from 2028 to 2035. The EPA is expected to decide on whether to grant the extension, which many neighbors oppose, in mid-2015.
The Novaks said they’re used to foul odor and blowing trash, but the seagull invasion was new. They estimated between 5,000 and 10,000 gulls arrive about 8 a.m. and stay until dusk daily since August. Ron Novak said he complained to the Ohio EPA about potential contamination and was told it was not in their jurisdiction because the pond is private. Mike Settles, an EPA spokesman, didn’t return a call or email Wednesday night.
Ron Novak said he was dissatisfied with the outcome of a Tuesday meeting with Republic officials. He said they didn’t look at pictures he took of the gulls and trash. While Novak said Republic agreed to have workers pick up bones in the spring, he wants an environmental cleaning company to handle it to ensure there is no contamination.
“If you had a condom floating around your lake, I think you’d want a little more than just picking things up,” he said. “The main problem we’re having is to get anybody to take responsibility and say, ‘Hey, this is our job to make sure your lake isn’t polluted by somebody else.’”
Eric VanHouten, a Republic general manager, was one of the officials who met with Novak. VanHouten said Wednesday that Republic hasn’t decided whether its workers or an environmental company would do the cleanup.
VanHouten said 20- to 50-foot-high fences catch most blowing trash from the dump, but high winds and frigid temperatures exacerbated the problem last week. VanHouten said Republic is trying to reduce the amount of gulls at the dump and in the neighborhood.
He said Republic has consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and has used firecrackers to scare the gulls away, but they are a “very aggressive flock.”
VanHouten said Republic wants to be a good neighbor and takes all complaints seriously. “We look into every situation and try to remedy it as much as we can,” he said.