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Canton Tries to Inventory Old Chemicals in Abandoned Buildings

Monday, October 7, 2013 at 8:22 PM

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A fire that led to the evacuation of much of Northeast Canton three weeks ago is also leading to a new effort to track what’s in scores of old industrial buildings. For Ohio Public Radio, WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more proposals to inventory commercial buildings and the dangerous materials they hold.

Federal law says companies are supposed to report what hazardous chemicals they create, use or store. But the law relies on self-reporting and—for most chemicals—covers only amounts of 10,000 pounds or more.

Many Northeast Ohio cities are left with an additional complicator—small, abandoned factories that predate most reporting and zoning laws.

Mark Adams is director of environmental health for the Canton Health Department. He was one of those responding on Sept. 16, when sulfur left in a largely vacant factory caught fire and released clouds of sulfur dioxide over the city. Since then, he’s been part of discussions of potential new regulations to register and monitor abandoned commercial buildings.

“The onus should be placed upon the property owner, or the person leasing the business, running the business, a business agent, that if they are going to be using chemicals, they should know what it is that they have and that information should be available to the community. The citizens are entitled to know what it is that they live next to.”

Adams says—though other Northeast Ohio communities are in largely the same situation—he knows of no model regulations.

In the last decade, Adams says Canton discovered chemicals in one abandoned factory that became a Superfund site and dealt with an ammonia leak in another.

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Courts/Crime - Fire/Law Enforcement, Environment

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