By DON PERRY
Weirton attorney Edward Zagula said Friday he hopes a judgement from the
Brooke County Circuit Court will end the stink once and for all surrounding an
eight-year battle with a sewage sludge composting company located in Colliers.
Circuit Judge James P. Mazzone on Friday ruled against Valero Terrestrial
Corp.'s motion to dissolve an injunction that has been in place since Nov. 15,
2000, halting the company's work at the composting plant that has raised the ire
of residents in the area since 1996.
Valero operated a facility that turns sewage sludge into compost material,
which was operating near Weirton before injunctions closed the facility. It is a
subcontractor for a Pennsylvania corporation, Solid Waste Services Inc.
Valero's Brooke County facility has a history of injunctions from the courts.
Since 1996, the plant has been closed twice due to complaints of "horrific
odors" caused by the plant that the courts termed a "public nuisance," and
agreed to remain closed permanently in 2000 after it failed to meet requirements
set forth in a 1999 court order that gave the company an opportunity to employ
corrective measures to control the odor emissions.
At that time, Valero representatives agreed to a permanent injunction if the
plant failed to meet the court's demands concerning the odor complaints.
Once the injunction was lifted and the plant began normal operations, the
complaints began once again, according to court documents. That's when the
circuit court issued the injunction that was supposed to close the facility
permanently nearly three years ago.
Valero didn't go away. Instead, the company petitioned the court in 2001 to
lift the permanent injunction. After two years of consideration, Friday's
judgement denied that motion, citing the court's duty and obligation "to protect
the community from foul, objectionable odors which infringe upon basic
Mazzone "strongly" upheld the permanent injunction in a 25-page decision that
will keep the facility closed.
He noted that even after improvements intended to reduce odors were made at
the facility in 1999, complaints were again registered as soon as operations
commenced, stating "the extensive improvements did nothing to curb odorous
emissions from spreading into the surrounding community."
"Suffice it to say that Valero has been given ample opportunity to correct
the odor emission and has failed to do so," Mazzone said.
Zagula, who represented petitioner Terri Patterson as well as a group of
eight to 10 residents living near the plant, was thrilled with the decision.
"It seems like this has been a never-ending struggle," Zagula said. "But this
seems to be the end of it."
Valero has the right to appeal the decision to the West Virginia Supreme
Court, but Zagula said he believes the appeal would fall on deaf ears. "My frank
opinion is they're going to find little help there," Zagula said. "I think
they've cooked their goose with the Supreme Court."