Garbage truck inspections trashed

After more than 50 years of licensing local waste haulers, the Wood County Health Department has been
told it has no authority to do so.
The ruling, made by Wood County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Linda Holmes and backed by the Ohio
Attorney General’s Office, came as a surprise to health departments throughout the state which now have
to halt their inspections of garbage trucks.
The issue surfaced last year when the health department started getting complaints from waste haulers
that some in their profession weren’t getting annual licenses. So Brad Espen, director of environmental
services at the health department, asked Holmes if his staff could monitor waste haulers as they entered
the landfill and license those who had not registered themselves.
"Linda came back with the ruling that we didn’t have the authority," Espen said. "And the
Attorney General’s Office concurred with her opinion."
That opinion shook inspection programs throughout the state that had been in place since the 1950s.
"The impact was statewide," Espen said.
While Holmes ruled that the health department does have the authority to inspect trucks, Espen said his
staff has been told to halt those inspections.
"She basically advised us not to inspect or license them," he said.
The department can, however, continue to respond to nuisance complaints of garbage trucks dropping trash
or leaking liquids – but that is all for now.
One local waste hauler, Mick Torok of NAT Transportation in Bradner, assured that garbage trucks in the
county will continue to operate responsibly.
"There’s nothing to be alarmed about," Torok said.
Besides, Torok said the health department’s annual inspections were of "limited value" since
the sanitarians are not trained as commercial vehicle inspectors.
"It relieves us from the issue of a sanitarian inspecting a vehicle – a person who isn’t really
trained," he said. "It was really a good ruling by the attorney general."
And if there are problems, the health department can intervene.
"The health department still has authority over us if we cause a nuisance," Torok said.
Waste haulers will still be subject to random inspections by the PUCO and the Ohio State Patrol, he
added.
The loss of the annual licensing fee will be another hit to the health department’s solid waste program.
The county currently has 34 waste hauling companies, being charged $70 per vehicle. That added up to
between $10,000 and $13,000 a year. That loss comes on top of $80,000 being cut recently by the solid
waste district for landfill inspections.
"It’s definitely going to impact our program," Espen said of the license loss. "That was
one of the last sources of revenue coming into the solid waste program."
Other areas of the state are feeling the same pinch after the Attorney General’s ruling.
"Some of the largest cities, like Cincinnati – you can just imagine the impact."
Espen is hoping that by working with state legislators, the licensing and inspection programs can be
reinstated.
"I think it’s important to check things," he said.
If such legislation is considered, Torok said waste haulers want to be involved.
"We’re not against working with the health department," he said. "We just want to sit at
the table and help write it."
However, Torok believes two issues must still be addressed with the current attorney general’s ruling.
First, he said the opinion should extend to septic tank haulers. And second, he believes health
departments should somehow rectify the license fees incorrectly collected over the years.
"We may be at odds with each other," he said.