By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer
DOWNTOWN - Cincinnatians may breathe a little easier because of a law passed Wednesday by City Council aimed at air polluters.
Council voted 8-1 to adopt the Cincinnati Clean Air Act, which allows the city to enter into a contract with the Hamilton County Department of Environmental Services to investigate odor and pollution complaints. Council's decision comes nearly a year and a half after the city's Office of Environmental Services was shut down because of budget constraints.Under the new law, a lawyer from the city's Community Prosecution Division will pursue cases if the investigation finds a violation of nuisance laws. Violators will be sent to the Hamilton County Housing Court and could face fines of up to $15,000 per day until the source of the pollution is cleaned up.
"It makes a statement that we are concerned about our air," said Councilman David Crowley, who introduced the measure along with Councilman John Cranley. "We want to take action against those who contribute to the degradation of our quality of life."
Councilman Pat DeWine, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he believes the law only duplicates what state and federal environmental protection agencies are already doing. He also expressed concern that it could drive businesses away from Cincinnati.
"I don't know that we should be in the business of passing legislation that no other jurisdiction has," DeWine said. "City Council passing a new law isn't going to make the air any cleaner."
Improving air quality continues to be an issue for Cincinnati.
Cranley said the measure will make neighborhoods more livable and won't cost the city any additional money. City council had previously allocated more than $100,000 from its budget for a prosecutor to deal with quality of life issues.
"This gives citizens another weapon in the arsenal against pollution," said Nithin Akuthota, a University of Cincinnati law student who helped draft the ordinance. "We're very excited that City Council sees this as an important issue."
Mike Cappel, a second-year law student at UC, said the law is not designed to handle big industrial polluters. Those cases would be handled by the state and federal EPA, he said.
"This is going to stop the small polluters," Cappel said.
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