'Numerous issues of non-performance' at root of trash dispute, lawsuit

Cary Ashby • Apr 23, 2019 at 10:00 PM

A lawsuit pitting Erie County against Huron County in a dispute about trash disposal remains unresolved.

Last spring, Erie County commissioners filed the lawsuit in Erie County Common Pleas Court, claiming Huron County was in breech of contact.

While officials in both counties say they are unable to discuss the matter due to the pending litigation, previous statements provide insight as to why Huron County ended its agreement to have trash hauled from the transfer station to the Erie County landfill.

When Huron County closed its landfill at 2415 Townline Road 151 about 21 years ago, it needed to find places to send its trash. That place was Erie County from 2008 until last spring, when a dispute between the two counties ended the deal.

Erie County officials, in a prepared statement, have said the two counties “enjoyed the benefits of a successful agreement” for more than eight years, but claimed Huron County ended that arrangement “with minimal notice.” 

Huron County officials dispute that claim.

Huron County Commissioner Terry Boose has said “we did have discussions with Erie County, letting them know we were unhappy with the service before” ending the solid waste management agreement with Erie County.

In the lawsuit, Erie County stated it had “faithfully and correctly performed its duties and obligations under the ‘solid waste agreement’ from its inception through March 31, 2018, successfully transporting” slightly more than 123.1 million tons of “Huron County solid waste from Huron County to the Erie County landfill … for disposal with no material disruptions.”

Huron County Prosecutor James Joel Sitterly, in a March 27, 2018 letter to the Erie County commissioners informing them that the solid-waste agreement was being terminated, said “there have been numerous issues of non-performance by your contracted waste hauler, CEI” since late 2017. He went on to say “the numerous issues of non-performance by your contracted waste hauler have neither been addressed nor remedied, proximately causing Huron County to be in violation of Ohio EPA regulations relative to its transfer station.”

“Furthermore, it is Huron County’s understanding that CEI has requested that it be relieved of its obligations under the contract between Erie County and CEI, which Erie County has granted. While Huron County is aware of Erie County’s attempt to obtain a new trash hauler, Huron County is unwilling to accept Erie County’s proposed amendment to the rates under the agreement,” Sitterly wrote.

Huron County Commissioner Skip Wilde has called the situation “very complicated,” but ultimately “we said we’d had enough.”

“They were getting a new hauler and we decided we were looking at other bids. It was an issue of non-performance. Things were (supposed) to be done and they didn’t happen,” he said.

Huron County’s new hauler is Rumpke Waste Management, a private contractor. It is responsible for hauling the waste from the transfer station to Rumpke’s privately-owned landfill in Richland County. Rumpke subcontracts R&J Trucking Inc. to do that work.

Huron County officials said they are pleased with Rumpke’s performance.

“Rumpke has been doing a great job. We have had no issues with them,” said Pete Welch, Huron County director of operations. “They give us service that keeps our facility in compliance with the Ohio EPA regulations — everything we need.”

Money also appears to be an issue with the lawsuit.

After Erie County “came back with a contract with a different hauler at a higher price,” Boose said, “we went out and looked for a different contract because (it was cheaper) and things weren’t getting done.”

Erie County, in its statement, said “our previous contract had an agreed upon rate of $26.48 per ton for disposal this year and $26.58 per ton in 2019.”

Last year, Rumpke was paid $28 a ton under its contract.

Huron County puts out bids for the disposal of the trash collected at the Townline Road 131 facility.

“We have been doing that for 21 years,” Welch said.

Huron County recently signed a five-year pact with Rumpke at the same rate — $28 per ton. The pact is for three years guaranteed, with a pair of one-year renewals.

Welch provided a brief history of the landfill and the county’s solid waste management. He said Huron County has “flow control” to pay off the past debt, as allowed in the Ohio Revised Code, for closing the landfill, transfer station and recycling center in 1998.

“We closed the landfill in 1998 due to the cost of operating it, so we did business as the transfer station,” Welch said. “When you close the landfill, you have to monitor that thing for 30 years.”

The cost to maintain the landfill is $200,000 per year for nine more years. That pays for surface water monitoring, methane monitoring, leachate collection and treatment, erosion control, sediment basin maintenance, reseeding and other miscellaneous site maintenance.

Money collected from the transfer station operations helps pay those costs.

It has been more than a year since the lawsuit was filed. Is a resolution in sight?

In recent weeks, both sides have refused to comment on the specifics.

“We do not discuss pending litigation,” said Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Randy Strickler, who serves as the legal counsel for the commissioners. “We are not trying this case in the newspaper.”

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