(CLEVELAND) — A Cuyahoga County judge has ordered the cleanup of a west Cleveland warehouse that illegally stored millions of fluorescent light bulbs containing mercury.
The court order requires the owner of the warehouse, George Dietrich, to prepare a cleanup plan and pay a $284,600 civil penalty for using the site illegally as hazardous waste storage and disposal facility.
“This crumbling warehouse was crammed full of hazardous junk that put the neighboring community at risk,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “It’s time for the man who made the mess to accept responsibility and get it cleaned up.”
For years, Dietrich and his companies, Fluorescent Recycling Inc. and NDHMD Inc., transported fluorescent light bulbs to the warehouse on Neville Avenue, but they rarely paid for the waste to be disposed of properly.
Fluorescent light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury that can be released as a hazardous vapor if the glass tubing breaks.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency cited Dietrich in 2016 for operating a hazardous waste facility without a permit after an inspection of the warehouse found more than 2 million spent fluorescent bulbs, many of them broken and piled on the floor.
After a fire broke out at the warehouse in 2018, the Ohio EPA worked with the U.S. EPA to remove more than 400 tons of fluorescent bulbs and debris. But testing shows the building is still contaminated with mercury.
The order from Common Pleas Court Judge Deborah Turner requires Dietrich and his companies to submit plans for a full cleanup to the Ohio EPA. It also prohibits them from receiving or storing additional waste at the site.
Attorneys from Yost’s Environmental Enforcement Section are handling the case.