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People in Vickery upset about hazardous liquid on its way from East Palestine

Say they weren't given a heads up
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Posted at 6:17 PM, Feb 27, 2023

VICKERY, Ohio — Just like the towns in Texas and Michigan, a small farming community in Sandusky County is feeling blindsided after finding out that liquid hazardous waste from East Palestine are on their way.

People in Townsend Township and in Vickery are not happy.

They tell News 5 Investigators no one gave them a heads up and either found out through the grapevine or on the news.

Vickery is mostly farmland with a post office, volunteer fire department, a few taverns and Vickery Environmental.

"I would say we've had an uneasy coexistence,” John Steager said.

Steager lives a mile and a half from the facility and is also the Townsend Township Trustee Chair.

"I have contended for many many years that at least at the county level we should have some sort of log or some sort of notification when waste is coming in like this,” Steager said.

The federal EPA is allowing Norfolk Southern to send some of the contaminated liquid to Vickery Environmental. The Sandusky County EMA said Vickery will receive about three to four loads of overflow water per day.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 Administrator Debra Shore said it would be disposed of in an underground injection well.

"I'd say most of the residents aren't real happy about it,” Darrell Moore said.

Moore has lived in Vickery for more than three decades. He’s an avid hunter and fisherman.

"I want to know, what if it does leak? What we should look for as far as health hazard and what we should look for in our wild animals in case they get into it somewhere?” Moore said.

"It's just not right just because we live out in the country or whatever they can get away with — just send it to Vickery, there's no one around — but there's a lot of us around here,” John Smarsh said.

Steager says he first heard about the hazardous shipments to Vickery in an article he read late last Friday.

"I was a little upset we weren't informed. My phone has been ringing every since Friday afternoon,” Steager said.

He also has a lot of concerns including haul routes, whether the trucks are inspected first, and the liquid waste itself, especially being so close to Sandusky Bay.

"Is that going to migrate to the surface, and if it does, where is it going to migrate to the surface?” Steager said.

Shore said the facilities receiving the solid and liquid waste are EPA-certified, have been evaluated and found to be acceptable to take the waste.

She said they don’t have the capability to handle all of it, so they are looking for more places.

“We will not be notifying for every single shipment. That's going to be too many,” Shore said.

Vickery Environmental would not answer specific questions but sent News 5 Investigators a statement.

“Vickery Environmental places the health and safety of our local communities at the forefront of all operations, making safety a core value without compromise, while operating under the strict oversight, and permitting of the Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA.”

"What we want is information. I don't know whether we can stop it or curtail it, but we can at least have the knowledge of what's going on out there, what we need to do,” Steager said.

Steager said some people want Vickery Environmental shut down, while others feel if that happens, it’ll lead to more problems if not monitored.

But Steager also said people in the community work there, so it’s their livelihood.

He’s in the process of setting up a community meeting with neighboring townships, Sandusky County, the state and federal EPA and State Rep. Click.

Late Monday evening, News 5 received an updated statement from Vickery that reads:

Thank you for your questions. The health and safety of the local community is at the forefront of all Vickery Environmental operations. The Ohio EPA has a Vickery Environmental Fact Sheet: https://epa.ohio.gov/static/Portals/28/documents/uic/VEIfactsheet2018.pdf that provides relevant information regarding your inquiry. While we acknowledge that some of this information may be outdated, the science and safety of the processes at Vickery Environmental remain the same, and the facility continues to operate under the highest standards, with strict oversight and permitting of both the Ohio EPA and US EPA. Additionally, here is an updated report out on recent volumes in 2022 – 29,234,120 gallons.

Vickery Environmental is not responsible for the transportation of this waste material. Any further questions you have regarding transportation or location selection, please inquire directly with the US EPA, or Sandusky County as they are coordinating the emergency response at this time.

Mia Jankowiak, Communications Manager — Great Lakes Area

RELATED: Contaminated waste shipments from Ohio derailment to resume

CLICK HERE to read News 5's continuing coverage of the East Palestine train derailment.

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