When we take our garbage to the dumpster or roll our can out to the curb, we seldom think about its final destination, wanting nothing more than for it to be hauled away. The majority of the time, however, this refuse will be taken to either a nearby incinerator or landfill.

Interestingly enough, the Stony Hollow Landfill, located near Moraine and owned by the nation’s largest solid waste company, Waste Management, is at the center of a federal class action lawsuit filed by over 160 homeowners living in close proximity to the dump over its release of noxious odors.

While the notion of people who have long lived near a landfill filing a class action lawsuit over the smell of garbage may seem strange, reports indicate that this is more than just a general malodor. Indeed, one resident referred to the relentless and sickening reek as a “wall of stink,” while stories show that it frequently spreads outward from Moraine through Montgomery County, including as far as downtown Dayton.

The problem, according to the complaint, is Waste Management’s recent construction of new collection wells designed to capture methane gas, an effort that requires digging up a significant amount of degrading trash.

In addition to generating both methane and carbon dioxide, both of which are odorless, degrading trash also emits organic compounds like hydrogen sulfide that can smell putrid even in trace amounts.

While the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, which contracts with the Ohio EPA to monitor air quality, has yet to detect anything potentially harmful to residents in 17 air samples, Moraine officials have nevertheless fielded hundreds of calls from residents about the odor and have even posted an odor complaint form on their website.

In the lawsuit, the affected homeowners’ claim that Waste Management is taking far too long to complete the project and that their efforts have resulted in diminished property values and loss of use/enjoyment of the property. In addition to seeking substantial damages, it’s likely that some sort of injunctive relief has also been requested.

For its part, Waste Management indicated in a recent city meeting that construction is nearing completion and that an odor control barrier — i.e., a synthetic impermeable cap — will soon be installed to help mitigate the smell. These efforts will be monitored by both the Public Health Department for Dayton & Montgomery County, and the Ohio EPA.

It remains to be seen whether these measures will be completed and what steps, if any, Montgomery County is going to take in response to the olfactory nightmare. Indeed, some options currently being considered by the Solid Waste Advisory Committee include requesting that a waiver permitting vertical expansion of Stony Hollow be revoked by the Ohio EPA and/or that the county takes its refuse elsewhere.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you have questions relating to an administrative law matter or would like to learn more about your options for pursuing a civil lawsuit, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional.