County mulch business sued by state


BELLBROOK — A local mulch and landscaping company has been sued by Attorney General Dave Yost for allegedly polluting county waterways.

In the civil case filed in Greene County Common Pleas Court July 5, Yost said Tom’s Mulch and Landscaping and owners Judd and Laura Powell have “endangered the environment by illegally discharging pollutants” into an unnamed tributary of Sugar Creek, into Sugar Creek, and into an unnamed wetland without a permit. They are also accused of conducting their composting operations along Sugar Creek instead of within the approved materials placement area which “have further endangered the environment.”

According to the lawsuit, in March 2019, the Ohio EPA inspected the facility and discovered several violations of Ohio’s water pollution control laws. A notice of violation letter was sent to Judd Powell in May 2019 that requested the business apply for an individual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit and relocate the mulch and compost material that is immediately adjacent to the unnamed tributary and Sugar Creek.

The business responded several days later saying it was working on the discharge permit application but the lawsuit claims the application was never submitted. A second violation letter was sent in February 2020 detailing the same violations and requesting the same actions as the previous notice of violations, court records show. The lawsuit claims a meeting took place between the Ohio EPA and Laura Powell during which Tom’s Mulch promised to submit the permit application within 30 days but failed to do so. A third and final NOV was sent in January 2021 giving Tom’s Mulch 30 days to resolve outstanding violations, but no action to resolve the violations was taken, the lawsuit claims.

The owners signed orders in 2021 requiring them to undertake several actions including applying for a discharge permit and submitted a stormwater pollution prevention plan and paying a civil penalty. The civil penalty was paid, but Tom’s Mulch did not comply with the other requirements, according to the lawsuit.

A June 2022 inspection by the Ohio EPA showed no work had been done to address the stormwater management concerns, the lawsuit said. According to the lawsuit, the defendants did submit a discharge permit in November 2022. But that, and a stormwater pollution prevention plan were incomplete and require revisions and additional information.

Yost is asking for the court to order that Tom’s Mulch submit the applications for the proper permits, immediately cease operations of the composting area and relocate materials to an approved area, and pay penalties in the amount of $10,000 per day for each day of each violation all costs and fees of the lawsuit.

Reach Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

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