“The stench was so bad that when I would bake a turkey in my kitchen, the only thing you could smell was the dump,” said Roger Pound. Now, thanks to an Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) intervention, Mr. Pound can once again smell the mouth-watering aromas coming from his kitchen.
Mr. Pound lives a few yards away from the “dump,” the 400-acre A&L Salvage Landfill in Lisbon, Ohio, which began operations in 2001. A&L had not been operating long before neighbors expressed concerns typical of landfill facilities−dust, noise, and appearance. More serious complaints included improper handling of solid waste and a strong rotten egg smell usually associated with hydrogen sulfide.
After issuing several fines and receiving an even larger number of complaints from neighbors, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested ATSDR’s assistance to investigate a potential public health impact. In 2007, ATSDR was asked to investigate the effects of exposure to hydrogen sulfide.
ATSDR proceeded to collect and analyze data from the community surrounding the landfill and presented the information to EPA. In 2009, A&L and state authorities agreed to stop landfill operations. However, the community could not celebrate yet.
A year later, hydrogen sulfide odors worsened, causing headaches and nausea among local residents. Mr. Pound remembers that he was unable to stay in his backyard long enough to mow his lawn without getting sick.
EPA asked ATSDR to analyze new data gathered between 2008 and 2010. Air quality monitoring equipment placed outside Mr. Pound’s front door recorded hydrogen sulfide readings as high as 110 parts per billion (ppb). Onsite hydrogen sulfide concentrations were as high as 2400 ppb. Exposure to levels below 100 ppb have been associated with headaches, vomiting, breathing problems, depression and other symptoms (ATSDR,
ATSDR concluded that current hydrogen sulfide levels could result in health problems, particularly for people sensitive to that substance. “Not only did ATSDR help us determine the health risk of exposure, but they also provided communication and community outreach to area residents,” said EPA On-Scene Coordinator Ramon Mendoza. “ATSDR visited the residents and listened to their concerns.”
In March 2010, after the intervention of state and federal authorities, A&L owners permanently closed the facility and agreed to continue monitoring gases, liquids and solid substances. Seven months later, monitors no longer detected hydrogen sulfide in the area; the public health threat had been eliminated. Mr. Mendoza said, “ATSDR’s efforts were critical in providing advice and addressing the concerns of the community.”
Mr. Pound is hopeful that his community will recover and people will regain their quality of life. With a happy tone in his voice, he said that he and his wife were able “to host their first Super Bowl party since 2000 without anyone getting sick or leaving because of the smell from the landfill.”
Every day ATSDR specialists struggle to promote healthy and safe environments, educate communities and prevent harmful exposures. ATSDR is directed by a congressional mandate to address the effects of hazardous substances in the environment on public health. You can learn more about ATSDR’s mission, goals & core values visiting its web site www.atsdr.cdc.gov.