Some residents of East Liverpool, Ohio, have been complaining about emissions from a hazardous-waste incinerator since it opened in 1993 but say the EPA has been of little help.
The incinerator, operated by Heritage Thermal Services, has been fined for air pollution and workplace safety violations, but one resident says the fines have been mere “slaps…on the wrist.”
Incinerator opponents were optimistic when the East End neighborhood was declared a “potential environmental justice area” by the EPA a decade ago. But they say the designation has not resulted in stronger community protections.
An EPA official says there’s a misconception that an environmental-justice designation requires the agency to take special action in places like the East End. In fact, it’s an internal screening tool to help officials identify minority and low-income areas that bear disproportionate pollution burdens.
EPA data show the Heritage incinerator released more than 3,000 pounds of toxic substances, including lead and benzene, into the air in 2013. The facility’s total emissions, however, have been trending down since 2005.