Ohio industrial company accused of illegally storing hazardous waste

Ohio industrial company accused of illegally storing hazardous waste

Operators of Sebring Industrial Plating are facing felony charges for illegally storing 19 tons of hazardous waste at the company’s site, which may have been seeping onto neighboring properties.

Arrest warrants have been issued for the operators of Sebring Industrial Plating, who were accused of illegally storing tens of thousands of pounds of hazardous waste in the company’s rundown building along West Tennessee Avenue in Sebring, Ohio.

As reported by Mahoning Matters, the once-thriving business “fell into ruin years ago and has been targeted for cleanup by the state and federal EPA, but records show the violations—some linked to the business’ previous operator—have mostly gone uncorrected for years.”

During a warranted search of the 600-square-foot garage, Ohio EPA investigators found at least 38,000 pounds of hazardous waste, some of which had been at the site since 2016.

Village Solicitor Gary Van Brocklin on May 10 charged operators Samual L. Hopper Jr., 24, and Brian Andrews Hopper, 22, both of Sebring, as well as the business’ former operator, Richard Sickelsmith, 63, of New Waterford, with felony counts of operating a hazardous waste facility without a license and storing hazardous waste at a facility without a license. The business itself is also named as a criminal defendant.

The Hoppers haven’t been seen at the site since at least January, Van Brocklin said.

Sebring Area Court Judge Joe Schiavoni issued arrest warrants for the three ahead of their Thursday preliminary hearings in that court, records show.

“I can’t really make any comment except to say that they polluted the heck out of the place,” Van Brocklin told Mahoning Matters. “We’re applying to the U.S. EPA to clean it up.”

Sebring Industrial Plating has been identified as one of 27 U.S. EPA superfund sites in the Mahoning Valley.

Among the findings reported in the EPA’s April 28 notice of violation against Sebring Industrial Plating:

  • Corrosive and/or chromium waste was found in seven tanks associated with the business’ former plating line. Solid chromium was also found on the floor around those tanks. Chromium is extremely toxic, according to the U.S. EPA. One type of chromium compound can cause cancer when inhaled.
  • At least five 55-gallon containers had corrosive, chromium or cadmium waste in them. Cadmium is also considered highly toxic, according to the EPA. It’s known to cause long-lasting lung impairment when inhaled and is likely to be carcinogenic to humans.
  • Cadmium was also found in the building’s non-operating wastewater treatment tank and floor sump.

Investigators have found, in all, about 8,000 gallons of waste liquid once used in the plating process, Van Brocklin said.

There are also holes in the building’s roof, which allow precipitation inside.

Van Brocklin, who was hired less than two years ago, said he doesn’t know if any of the material has escaped the site, which is surrounded on all sides by residential properties. Cleanup orders issued by the EPA director to Sickelsmith in December 2018 indicate an “undetermined amount of unknown liquids” escaped the building the prior September and ended up on adjacent properties and in the village’s stormwater system, prompting an emergency response from the EPA.