Kent City Council initiates environmental cleanup

By: Taylor Rosen and Jamie Dillon

A petroleum leak and off-campus housing were at the forefront of discussions at the Kent City Council meeting Wednesday night.

Heidi Shaffer, Ward 5 council member, said the petroleum has leaked onto city property and into the Cuyahoga River. “It’s been a matter of making the property owners take responsibility,” she said.

Kent City Council enacted a motion to adopt the ordinance to begin the environmental cleanup at 800 Mogadore Road. Lamson & Sessions Company, Falls Rivet and Machining Company, and the Russell, Burdsall and Ward Corporation – the three companies that occupied the land in the past – incidentally caused the leak due to improper pollution control practices.

An interim remedial action plan confirmed the company that currently occupies the building, Thomas & Betts Corp., was unaware of the pollution in the North Ditch Area up until just last year. Until the reported leak, there were no reasons to test the soil.

John Idone, Kent’s director of Parks & Recreation, said based on the information he’s received from consultants, the petroleum leak doesn’t seem to be a current issue. He said it was described to him as a “legacy issue.”

A portion of Idone’s statement on the leak: “They had waste product from the industrial site, and back then pollution controls were not in place,” Idone said. “Basically, they dumped it into a pit that has flowed in the direction of the river through the North Ditch into an undeveloped section behind the Kramer Field Complex. Last year, an oil stream was discovered on the Cuyahoga River and it was determined it was coming from that site. They went in and did soil sampling and determined there was petroleum product in the soil.”

An overhead shot shows a bend in the Cuyahoga River.
An overhead shot shows a bend in the Cuyahoga River.

Idone went on to say they are currently monitoring the river for oil and that the area impacted is about a two-acre strip of land known as the North Ditch Area. Idone said they’re planning on removing all of the soil in the impacted area and testing it until the area is revitalized and fertile.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency gave the green light to go forward with a plan to clean up the impacted area. With the approval of council, the clean-up of this industrial site will begin in the immediate future, potentially as soon as next week.

Kent residents in attendance seemed particularly worried about the proposed housing developments on Horning Road.

Matt Summerville, a lifetime Kent native, describes some of the benefits the city of Kent would reap if more middle-aged people lived in Kent.

Mary Orchan, of Kent, urges the Kent City Council to “disregard developer’s requests to implement high-density residential rent-for-bed projects.”

Kent City Council resident complaints from Jamie on Vimeo.

Kent City Council moved to have Kent City Manager Dave Ruller reach out and follow up with both individuals who made the suggestions, Summerville and Orchan, to further discuss the progress of their requests.

The council wrapped up the meeting by discussing zoning and housing issues in the Kent area that are frustrating residents within the community. The new business discussed at the meeting revolved around two separate housing unit proposals on Horning Road.

Residents seemed agitated by the potential ramifications of the projects. Their main concern is that it would bring more students into the city. The council responded by committing to discuss and analyze their options to resolve the issue.

Five ordinances were assessed during discussion, and all of them were adopted and passed for further revision. Of the five, four of the ordinances and resolutions passed at the meeting were declared a state of emergency and put into effect immediately.

The meeting took place in the basement of the Kent Fire Department and ran for two hours.