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Ohio EPA and local authorities convict illegal dumpers

The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) jointly announced that a case involving illegal dumping which blighted the Clintonville area Walhalla Ravine four years ago has been solved. Jeffery A. Gardner Jr. and Andrew Eckstein have pled guilty in Franklin County Municipal Court to one count each of water pollution for dumping paint and other remodeling materials in Walhalla Creek.

The two men were sentenced by Environmental Judge Harland Hale and ordered to pay $8,060 in restitution to Ohio EPA for removing the dumped items and cleaning up the paint-contaminated creek, $787 in court fines and costs, and to serve 100 hours each of community service removing litter from Franklin County rivers and roadways. The defendants were also sentenced to one year in jail; the jail time was suspended on the condition that they successfully complete five years of probation.

Local residents called Ohio EPA’s 24-Hour Emergency Spill Hotline about the illegal dumping in October, 2008. Investigators responded to the affected area located on Walhalla Road between Indianola Avenue and North High Street.

Ohio EPA found 56 5-gallon buckets, containing mostly paint materials, which investigators determined had exploded in the ravine after being thrown from a moving vehicle for at least a mile along the creek. Ohio EPA oversaw the cleanup, which involved removing the buckets, flushing the creek with clean water and vacuuming the paint-contaminated water into tanker trucks for proper disposal. The ravine and creek were cleaned up before the area experienced any long-term environmental damage.

Ohio EPA tracked the paint to the store where it had been purchased and to the companies that had purchased it. Numerous interviews with employees, property owners, tenants and family members led to the suspects. Ohio EPA headed up the investigation with assistance from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Franklin County Environmental Crimes Task Force, which consists of members from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, Franklin County Public Health, Columbus Division of Refuse, and SWACO.

SWACO Executive Director Ron Mills applauded the tireless efforts of investigators and the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office who pursued this case for nearly four years.