Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Health Department replies to LPH concerns about junkyard licensing

Health Commissioner Dr. Noble Maseru agrees with Cincinnati Health Department supervising sanitarian Richard Thornburg that a proposed junkyard at 1951 State Avenue requires no license.

His case is made in a communication to Cincinnati City Council in which he responds to two letters written by Lower Price Hill Community Council president Dr. Jack Degano, who complained that concerns about storm water issues and possible environmental damage coming from a proposed facility from River Metals Recycling have been ignored.

In the letters, Degano cites sections 1021-5 through 1021-9 of the Cincinnati Municipal Code as the reason River Metals needs a license to operate the ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metals and junked car business.

But Maseru says that Section 1021-5 deals only with businesses classified and licensed as junk facilities.

Junk facilities are defined in Section 1021-1-J2 as automobile grave yards, junk yards, and motor vehicle lots -- but not scrap metal processing facilities or existing state licensed motor vehicle salvage dealer facilities.

Since the River Metals proposal does not fit the definition of a junk facility, Dr. Maseru says that they don't need a license and that Section 1021-5 does not apply.

In fact, Maseru says that the described use in the River Metals proposal doesn't even fit the City's definition of "junkyard".

Section 1021-1-J1 defines a junkyard as "any establishment or place of business which is maintained or operated for the purposes of storing, keeping, buying or selling junk, except manufacturing establishments buying and storing scrap or junk materials for use, in altered form, in their manufacturing process, or establishments or places where motor vehicles, wrecked or otherwise, are being held due to impoundment by a police officer, or which are maintained principally for the repair of wrecked or damaged motor vehicles."

In his letter, Degano also expressed worries about the unstable and porous hillside on the site, which was created through excavation and later topped with dirt dredged from the Mill Creek.

And he fears that every heavy rain will cause a muddy runoff that could mix with any fluids coming from the junked cars.

"I'm unaware of any bulding permits filed by River Metals," Maseru says. "And the information gathered from the meeting with the River Metals spokesperson described a staging operation and no dismantling of vehicle or fluid drainage, only the removal of gasoline and batteries."

Residents of Lower Price Hill voted against the proposal last October, fearing that the predominately low-income neighborhood was a dumping ground for the City's polluting industrial businesses.

Homes and a few small businesses are located near the site.

"The whole of the area in the included map is zoned MG (Manufacturing General)," Maseru says. "It does require a conditional use for the operation. The surrounding 'homes' are also zoned MG."

A report on the matter by city manager Milton Dohoney Jr. is due before council by March 11.

Previous reading on BC:
Lower Price Hill seeks Cole's help in stopping junkyard (2/17/09)
River Metals to apply for junkyard use (11/13/08)
Lower Price Hill fighting proposed junkyard (10/9/08)