Sunday, August 22, 2004

Barrel Co. owner's Columbus firm sued

By Dan Klepal
Enquirer staff writer

LOWER PRICE HILL - The legal trouble for Edward Paul, owner of Queen City Barrel Co., stretches from Cincinnati to Columbus.

A Queen City Barrel Co. warehouse - holding between 40,000 and 50,000 barrels, many of which contained up to an inch of hazardous waste residue - caught fire Thursday evening and turned into one of the most spectacular blazes in recent memory.

Queen City Barrel has paid tens of thousands of dollars in fines for violations of environmental law, and for years has been the subject of complaints about nuisance odors and illegal discharges from residents and environmental watchdog agencies alike.

But Paul also owns Columbus Steel Drum, which does most of the work of flushing, painting and recycling the drums that are initially stored at the now-condemned Queen City Barrel warehouse. That company is the subject of a 27-count civil lawsuit, brought by the Ohio Attorney General's Office, claiming violations of state and federal environmental law.

Each count is punishable by a penalty of up to $25,000 for each day of the violation. Most of the violations date back two or three years.

A trial date is set for next month in Columbus.

The lawsuit alleges that the company has released lead, hydrochloric acid, smoke, vapors, fumes, odors, soot and chromium into the air at levels that exceed their permits. The lawsuit also says the company has failed to do a number of other mandatory things, such as: test for soot, maintain an operations log, submit reports to EPA, report malfunctions and fires, accurately report emissions, maintain carbon monoxide emissions monitoring data, maintain written reports, train personnel and conduct monthly inspections.

Vice President Craig Feltner said Paul bought Columbus Steel Drum in 2001 and has invested about $500,000 on pollution-control equipment. He remains hopeful that a settlement will be reached.

"We stepped into a hornet's nest when we bought that plant," Feltner said. "We are certainly doing our part to try and reach a settlement before we get to (trial), and I fully expect we will do that."

Feltner said EPA is demanding they install another $250,000 in pollution controls, and he thinks the company will make that investment. EPA officials would not comment because of the pending trial.

There are many similarities to the trouble Paul's Columbus company is having with his trouble in Cincinnati.

Queen City Barrel was fined more than $36,000 for illegal discharge of mercury, zinc, oil and grease. The company ignored the fines until the Metropolitan Sewer District brought suit against them.

Since that settlement in January 2003, the company has another 18 violations of MSD permits pending, including excess discharges of mercury, zinc, oil and grease; discharging waste without a permit, the release of "blue material" on Evans Street.

OEPA also fined the company more than $26,000 in February for air pollution violations.



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