A Washington C.H. man who hauled municipal waste for thousands of Fayette Countians and illegally dumped it for seven years on land at Bogus Road was sentenced Thursday in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas.
Loren A. Cartwright, 80, was sentenced on count one of the indictment to one year of community control, was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to Fayette County, and was ordered to pay $84,486.69 in restitution to the State of Ohio for the benefit of the Environmental Protection Remediation Fund.
Cartwright plead guilty in July to illegal disposal of solid waste by open dumping, an unclassified felony.
In a plea deal with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, counts two and three of the indictment were dismissed for operating a solid waste facility without a license and operating a solid waste transfer facility without a license.
Cartwright is the owner of Cartwright Salvage, Inc., the automobile salvage and garbage removal company located at 839 Bogus Road. He was indicted by a Fayette County grand jury after a 25-foot tall by 50-foot long pile of household garbage caught fire on Bogus Road April 21, 2015.
The fire took nearly 10 hours to extinguish.
Cartwright never had a state license to operate a solid waste landfill, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, who were appointed as special prosecutors in the case.
The Attorney General’s Office estimated the site on Bogus Road had been used as an unlicensed landfill going back as far as 2009, and even after the 2015 fire, continued to be used as an unlicensed garbage dump until February 2016.
“Mr. Cartwright was operating a business having contracts with up to 1,000 residents to haul their municipal waste to a lawful landfill for disposal. Instead of disposing that waste properly under the law, Mr. Cartwright brought it back to the facility at 839 Bogus Road and dumped it,” said Robert Cheugh, principal assistant attorney general for the state of Ohio.
Cartwright did not have a license to be a landfill or for the site to be a transfer facility, said Cheugh.
“Mr. Cartwright gave directions to some employees to actually dig pits and start pushing waste into those pits for which would be improper disposal under the law,” said Cheugh.
The Fayette County Health Department made several site visits and said Cartwright Salvage did not meet requirements for licensing. Cartwright Salvage’s license to haul garbage was not renewed in January because of the continuous unlicensed dumping of garbage.
According to Wanda Hughes, board member at the Fayette County Department of Health, the health department had been aware of the unlicensed dumping for years and had made several attempts to mediate the problem with Cartwright before finally contacting the Ohio EPA.
“It has been going on for multiple, multiple years. We did what we could do and also contacted—repeatedly—EPA. Our department, the local health department, was the one that finally got things rolling to get the rats—an unhealthy situation—out and I think the health department needs to be praised for what they did,” said Hughes.
Th 25-foot high and 50-foot long pile of garbage was removed in June with a $100,000 grant from the EPA’s environmental protection remediation fund.
The agreement was made between the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director, Craig W. Butler, and Robert Vanzant, the Fayette County Health Commissioner, to expedite the clean-up of the garbage after it was determined it was highly combustible and that thousands of rats were living in the unlicensed landfill.
A third-party company was hired to do rat abatement before the entire garbage pile could be removed. The garbage pile was hauled off by Rumpke and taken to one of their licensed landfills.
Neighbors in the vicinity of the unlicensed landfill reported to the Fayette County Health Department that the rats were coming into their homes.
As part of the grant, those residents were able to obtain vouchers for rat poison.
Steven Beathard, Fayette County Common Pleas Judge, said the rat problem was a “serious” health threat to residents in the area.
Leigh Cannon, Fayette County Health Department deputy health commissioner, said they had never before investigated a garbage pile that large.
When Cannon discussed the illegal dumping with the Record-Herald in July, she said rats in and around the illegal dump were as large as people’s shoes and numbered in the thousands.
In a letter to Judge Beathard, Cannon wrote that the EPA grant allowed for the clean-up efforts “to be done much quicker” but also stopped the rats from “visiting” neighbors.
“Mr. Cartwright deserves the Court’s leniency in our opinion,” wrote Cannon in the letter, which is also signed by Ralph Stegbauer, a Fayette County sanitarian.
The letter, which was typed with a Fayette County Health Department letterhead, was not approved by the Fayette County Board of Health, according to board members.
There was one board member who objected to Cannon sending a letter to Beathard on behalf of the health department, according to statements made on record during the sentencing hearing Thursday.
Vanzant declined to comment on the issue Monday.
Hughes said she wasn’t aware of who, if any, of the board members were in objection to Cannon sending a letter to Beathard.
“We were told about the letter but we were not read the letter. That’s day-to-day things that the health department employees can do. We had a gist—but it’s not read to us because it’s not necessary,” said Hughes.
Hughes said she has nothing against what Cannon wrote in the letter to Beathard.
”It’s important to know that this is just day-to-day operation and they have employee rights, and it’s not something that I understand would require board vote. It’s her job,” said Hughes.
Board member Terry Summers said the letter was briefly discussed at a meeting.
“We met that afternoon, and I know towards the end of the board meeting that letter had been brought up but had not been entirely read, there were parts of it highlighted. It had never been voted on. There was very little discussion about it,” said Summers, who said he didn’t recall hearing anything about the rats “visiting neighbors.”
“We’ve had issues with Loren. I know the health department has numerous times talked to him about that, but they contacted the Ohio EPA to help with the clean-up, and he didn’t respond much to that. It got really out of hand. I know him and their family and I hated things had to happen like this,” said Summers.
In a voucher obtained from the Fayette County bookkeeping department, the Fayette County Commissioners approved an $8,700 payment to Cartwright Salvage, Inc., in Aug. for garbage pick-up of a period of 14 years between 2003 and 2016.
According to the voucher, the bill was for garbage picked up by Cartwright Salvage Company from the Fayette County Sheriff’s Annex in Washington C.H.
The cost was $600 per year from January 2003 throughout June of 2016, which was after the April fire at the site of the unlicensed landfill on Bogus Road.
The Fayette County Commissioners said according to people in the community, Cartwright wasn’t sending out bills to people even though he continued to pick up and haul off their garbage.
“That’s common practice for him,” said Dan Dean, Fayette County Commissioner. “Our prosecutor said we owe the money. We did confer with him before we paid the bill.”
Tony Anderson, Fayette County Commissioner, said they wanted to pay the bill.
“We wanted to pay the bill. Mr. Cartwright continued to leave a container here and it was emptied on some kind of basis and we continued to put stuff in it,” said Anderson. “We wanted to pay for the service. They provided the service and never sent the bill.”
Dean said they are glad that the problem is now behind them.
“The health department did a great job in helping bring that to a close,” said Dean.
Cartwright was also ordered to pay the costs for prosecution. Cartwright would be subject to a two-year prison term if he violates the sentencing parameters.
According to the sentencing the State of Ohio cannot collect the restitution money for the year that Cartwright is on community control so that he has time to be able to pay, but the State of Ohio may file a lien on Cartwright’s real estate.
A photo of the garbage pile on Bogus Road that caught fire in April of this year and housed thousands of rats that posed a serious health threat to residents in the area.
Reach Ashley at the Record-Herald (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton