Big cleanup

WARREN TWP.-The thick, fog-like smoke enveloping Ohio 7 at Moore’s Junction all week was down to a tendril or two Friday morning and the fire is reported to be out, but the rubble from the fire at Level 5 Recycling Solutions remains.

A fire last Sunday resulted in a nearly 12-hour closure of the state highway between Marietta and Belpre and completely destroyed Marietta Industrial Enterprise’s main office building and two buildings that housed the recycling outfit formerly known as GreenLeaf, which separates, bails and sells recycled material from waste companies and communities. Some of that material includes paper, cardboard and plastics. MIE leased the buildings to the recycling company.

The Warren Volunteer Fire Department left the remaining spots of fire to burn Monday, after spending nearly 24 hours on site, resulting in smoky conditions in the area.

The cause of the fire is still undetermined and under investigation by the State Fire Marshal.

Scott Elliott, president of MIE, said residents and businesses nearby can breathe easier now.

“The fire is out,” he said. “We’ve rented a (vacuum) truck and have sucked up all the (fire suppression) water. We’ve impounded that and (are having) that tested before we dispose of that.”

Mark Wile, chief of the Warren Volunteer Fire Department, said there were 50 tanker loads of water pumped onto the site and “many hundreds of gallons of foam.”

“It seemed to put a pretty good dent in it,” Wile said. “Warren (fire department) was called down (Thursday) to put out some hot spots.”

Jeff Lippert, on-scene coordinator for the U.S. EPA, said all the water caused a concern for possible contamination.

“The berm that we installed there was to keep contaminated fire suppression water from running off site and into the storm drain,” he said. “We’re not allowing it to go to the Ohio River through the storm (drainage) system. Water removal is ongoing. As (teams) remove waste on-site, any pockets of water are removed.”

Residents Dave and Mary Padgitt live about 75 feet behind the facility and Dave said the beginning of the week is much different from now.

“I’m sure the smoke affects everybody,” said Dave. “It’s been smoky, sure…Of course, I live super close (to the site). If it got real bad, you’d have to go in the house or leave (the area)…it was all over our place for a while.”

Lippert said samples of the smoke were taken to determine if it was hazardous.

“We collected smoke samples, along with water samples,” he said. “We submitted (them) to the federal health agency…(and found) there was nothing to cause health concerns.”

Commissioner Tim Irvine made the trek to Marietta from the Little Hocking area through the week. He said a detour diverted traffic from Ohio 7 onto County 10 then to Ohio 550 into Marietta.

“Even when the road was closed, it was only a 10 to 15 minute detour,” he said. “I didn’t think it was bad; the detour was pretty short. After the road was opened, (the smoke) didn’t really affect my commute at all. I maybe slowed down a little bit…Obviously they had warnings up that there was smoke. Most people slowed down a little and then went through fine.”

Padgitt said on Friday the air is actually refreshing now that most of the debris is not smoldering.

“The air is nice and clean and everything,” he said. “I’m sitting on the porch right now, and there’s no smoke.”

During the week, Wile said the department has been called to put out many flare-ups and had been working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to figure out a way to put out the fire instead of letting it smolder.

“On Wednesday there was a massive effort by many fire departments to put some foam on there and try to get the fires there (put out),” said Wile. “We started at 7 o’clock that morning and finished at 4 that evening.”

Elliott said MIE has invested about $40,000 into putting out the fire.

“(Level 5 Recycling Solutions doesn’t) have sufficient assets or insurance to cover (the costs), so MIE…took on the responsibility to put the fire out,” he said.

Wile said the operations of the fire department should be mostly complete now.

“They have their own fire truck (on-site) right now,” he said. “I think our operations are done, or should be done. It’ll give us a little bit of relief; it’s been a long week for us.”

Michael Moore, owner of Level 5 Recycling Solutions, said the process for possibly opening another facility is in early stages, but the 20 to 25 full-time employees will still be laid off until a decision can be made.

“We’re still very early in that process; we’d like very much to reopen,” said Moore, adding he is already looking into equipment companies and other possible locations with MIE.

Lippert said the case is being given to the Ohio EPA to oversee clean-up, which should take about a week.

Elliott said the next phase is waiting on approval from the EPA.

“The EPA will not allow us to clean up before we verify there’s no asbestos (in the building),” he said.

Heather Lauer, spokeswoman for the Ohio EPA, said all the recycling material is now solid waste.

“(It) needs to be removed as soon as possible,” she said. “They just need to remove it and take it to a landfill. I would say sometime next week we’ll get started on the clean-up.”