(CLEVELAND) — A Garfield Heights recycling center and its owner were held in contempt of court Friday after ignoring an order to cut down the size of a massive debris pile that caught fire last year.
“This mountain of debris could at any second become the fuel for a raging inferno,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “We’ve got to act.”
Bill Baumann, owner of Baumann’s Recycling Center LLC, must now completely remove the debris pile by March 20 or face a fine of $5,000 per day. The pile consists of more than 30,000 cubic yards of construction and demolition debris.
Firefighters were called to the recycling center in January 2019 after an excavator caught fire on top of the pile. The conditions at the site were so poor that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, City of Garfield Heights and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health referred the case to the attorney general’s office for enforcement.
Yost’s office requested an injunction later that month out of concerns that another fire could break out, putting first responders and the community in harm’s way. Temperatures on the pile topped 140 degrees on some days.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Kelly Ann Gallagher granted the injunction this past June and ordered Baumann to reduce the pile by a minimum of 2,500 cubic yards per week, which he failed to do.
Baumann’s inaction prompted Gallagher to hold him and his three businesses – Baumann’s Recycling Center LLC, Baumann Enterprises Inc. and Baumann Properties Ltd. – in contempt of court, saying they “blatantly and flagrantly disregarded an Order of this Court, with no justifiable excuse.”
Yost’s Environmental Enforcement Section is handling the case. See photos of the debris pile on the attorney general’s Twitter page.