Bank, owner battle over blame for chemical waste at former Meier's building

SANDUSKY An old brick building from Sandusky's past has become the center of a court battle over responsibility for cleaning up industrial chemicals still sitting in 55-gallon drums. The U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA want chemicals removed from the brick building at 1702 Campbell St. in Sandusky, just north of the railroad tracks.
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

An old brick building from Sandusky's past has become the center of a court battle over responsibility for cleaning up industrial chemicals still sitting in 55-gallon drums.

The U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA want chemicals removed from the brick building at 1702 Campbell St. in Sandusky, just north of the railroad tracks.

The court case pits Citizens Bank of Norwalk and Citizens Banking Co. against the estate of James Roberts, Thomas J. Roberts and Ultimate Industries, which used the brick building on Campbell to manufacture artificial rocks and rock waterfalls. Ultimate went out of business on June 30, 2004. James Roberts died in 2007.

The Ohio EPA ordered Ultimate to remove remaining hazardous waste from the property July 13, 2007. It's still there, because Thomas Roberts cannot afford to remove it, attorney Kevin Zeiher said.

Dina Pierce, a spokeswoman for the Ohio EPA, said her agency has called in the U.S. EPA to carry out a removal action. If the property owner takes no action within about the next 45 days, the U.S. EPA will remove the remaining paint waste and solvents on the property and then seek to recover the costs from the property owner, she said.

"There really isn't a significant risk to the public at this point," she said. "The concern would be if there was a fire. The fumes from a fire could be toxic or hazardous."

A survey in 2002 found two LP gas cylinders, four 5-gallon buckets and 49 55-gallon drums on the premises, she said.

The court case centers on who has responsibility for the environmental violations -- Citizens Bank, which had begun foreclosure proceedings against the company, or the Roberts family.

Citizens says it's Ultimate's fault, arguing that the bank never took formal possession of the property. The Roberts side counters that the bank failed to sell the property when $100,000 was offered for it and let the property deteriorate.

Erie County Common Pleas Judge Roger Binette awarded a summary judgment for Citizens Bank against the Roberts estate. Binette relied upon an opinion from Magistrate Steve Bechtel, who handles civil cases for Binette. The ruling essentially stated that the law and the facts were so clear, Citizens should win the suit without having to go to trial.

The Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals reversed Binette on May 7, however, noting that Citizens had sold some items on the property after Ultimate defaulted on its loan and arguably would have been responsible for getting rid of the chemicals.

In the court's unanimous 3-0 ruling, Judge Peter M. Handwork wrote that there is a genuine dispute over whether Citizens "breached its duty of good faith and fair dealing," and ordered Binette to revive the case for further proceedings.

From the time of the May 7 ruling, Citizens Bank had 45 days to decide whether to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. No decision has been made yet, but the bank is leaning toward filing an appeal, attorney Jim McGookey said.

The bank still thinks Binette and Bechtel got it right, he said.

"We disagree that the facts indicate we had any control over the property," he said.

Zeiher said the appeals court ruling matches the evidence set before Handwork and concurring judges Mark Pietrykowski and Thomas Osowik.

"I believe the evidence will demonstrate a guy named Doug Gates was in and out of that property for years," he said, referring to a Citizens Bank agent who dealt with the property.

As for the hazardous waste, Zeiher said he agrees it must be removed, but said any liquids have hardened with time.

"It's probably solid at this point. It's not leaking," he said.

Tom Roberts works at Home Depot and cannot afford to remove the waste, Zeiher said.

Comments

Joker

Regarding another property near W Boalt St, why is a building with a 6 foot section of wall (including a corner) missing not condemned and razed? I'm speaking of one of the out buildings at the old Esmond Dairy. http://www.facebook.com/home.php...

Pretty dilapidated right?

Exxcellent

moderators have removed this comment because it contained personal attacks and libelous or defamatory statements.

concernedtruth

Well, here is my two cents worth, if a business closes as a result of either mismanagement or whatever and there is debt owed the owners of the company have to pay the debt. If the owners of the company pass away then if there was money from an insurance policy, some or all of that money should go to pay a debt. In this case 49 barrels of 55 gallon drums of hazardous materials are the responsibility of the owners, you don't get that much hazardous materials in a few weeks or months, it was building up and they didn't want to pay to get rid of it, the responsibility is the owners. However the building has been foreclosed and if these barrels should of been removed the original owner who put the materials there should make arrangements with the EPA and some sort of payment program to remove the materials, they enjoyed the sales of the products, now they need to pay for the removal of the trash.The responsiblity is not Citizens Bank.

thinktwice

On a positive note excluding who gets the bill, the toxic waste containers WILL BE REMOVED regardless of who pays the bill. That should be our main concern. The original owner and the bank both made their money here and let them figure out how to pay for it. The only time a bank knows you anyway is when your alive, capable of paying and owing. Let them apply for another " bailout" to pay for this as well. Have a few coctails as they ponder it as well.

CheObama

I like the use of the word "toxic" chemicals, what are they solvents, paint, paint thinners, laquer, pigments for their artifical rock and rock waterfalls? Disposal cost are high for "Hazardous" waste. curious if any of them are still usable or if they have passed their shelf life?

Salvatore

How many of these 49 barrels contain true hazardous waste? Is it possible that the other drums contain usable solvents, paint and other fluids that can be sold to others? I am only speculating that maybe the hazardous wastes are actually synthetic rocks that were not manufactured correctly and broken up. Why didn't Citizens sell for $100,000 in 2005 when there was a buyer? Citizens sold the equipment and typical business equipment including intellectual property and later bought the property at a sheriffs sale for $40,000 in 2006. Now isn't property bought at a sheriff's auction "as is"? Who put the hole in the roof to remove spraying equipment and who failed to maintain heat in the building? Did the pipes freeze and break causing damage? Did usable chemicals in the drums freeze? Wasn't Citizens responsible to protect the property? Later Citizens backed out of the $40,000 sale. Can they legally do that if property is sold "as is"? How much money did Citizens get for selling all of the business equipment, inventory and intellectual property? How can a bank cherry pick business equipment to sell but not be responsible for things of no value or that might cost money to dispose of? If Binette is supposed to rule on court cases, why did he rely upon an opinion from Magistrate Steve Bechtel? Binette is the elected judge and not Bechtel. Maybe Binette is just a puppet for others if he cannot make his own decisions based on facts? Okay heads up to all you legal experts that used to post legal advice before. Can any of you legal experts answer my questions?

Grey Ghost

I was a former employee of Ultimate Industries. The chemicals there are the same products used to make commercial insulated roof systems. It is structural urathane with a three pound density foam, it consisted of a two part mix and isosionate resin mix to make a solid product. Both products are listed as non flammable for production. No fire suppression system was even required for the process. While I was there, zylene was used in small quantities and was discarded in accordance with EPA requirements. The rest was natural pigments for color process.

Julie R.

Property sold at a Sheriff's Sale through foreclosure or back taxes IS sold "as is." That's why the Sheriff's Department warns people to have a title search done PRIOR to bidding on property. And Citizen's attorney, Jim McGookey, doesn't know this? Yeah, right. Glad to see the 6th District Court of Appeals didn't allow Binette, his magistrate and McGookey to get away with THIS one.

I also would like to mention that people should NEVER base a title search on what the Erie County Recorder has online because those records are misleading, untrue and incorrect.

tk

It doesn't matter who's responsible for the cleanup. We know who will ultimately get the bill, don't we?

Joker

Regarding another property near W Boalt St, why is a building with a 6 foot section of wall (including a corner) missing not condemned and razed? I'm speaking of one of the out buildings at the old Esmond Dairy. http://www.facebook.com/home.php...

Pretty dilapidated right?

Exxcellent

moderators have removed this comment because it contained personal attacks and libelous or defamatory statements.

concernedtruth

Well, here is my two cents worth, if a business closes as a result of either mismanagement or whatever and there is debt owed the owners of the company have to pay the debt. If the owners of the company pass away then if there was money from an insurance policy, some or all of that money should go to pay a debt. In this case 49 barrels of 55 gallon drums of hazardous materials are the responsibility of the owners, you don't get that much hazardous materials in a few weeks or months, it was building up and they didn't want to pay to get rid of it, the responsibility is the owners. However the building has been foreclosed and if these barrels should of been removed the original owner who put the materials there should make arrangements with the EPA and some sort of payment program to remove the materials, they enjoyed the sales of the products, now they need to pay for the removal of the trash.The responsiblity is not Citizens Bank.

thinktwice

On a positive note excluding who gets the bill, the toxic waste containers WILL BE REMOVED regardless of who pays the bill. That should be our main concern. The original owner and the bank both made their money here and let them figure out how to pay for it. The only time a bank knows you anyway is when your alive, capable of paying and owing. Let them apply for another " bailout" to pay for this as well. Have a few coctails as they ponder it as well.

CheObama

I like the use of the word "toxic" chemicals, what are they solvents, paint, paint thinners, laquer, pigments for their artifical rock and rock waterfalls? Disposal cost are high for "Hazardous" waste. curious if any of them are still usable or if they have passed their shelf life?

Salvatore

How many of these 49 barrels contain true hazardous waste? Is it possible that the other drums contain usable solvents, paint and other fluids that can be sold to others? I am only speculating that maybe the hazardous wastes are actually synthetic rocks that were not manufactured correctly and broken up. Why didn't Citizens sell for $100,000 in 2005 when there was a buyer? Citizens sold the equipment and typical business equipment including intellectual property and later bought the property at a sheriffs sale for $40,000 in 2006. Now isn't property bought at a sheriff's auction "as is"? Who put the hole in the roof to remove spraying equipment and who failed to maintain heat in the building? Did the pipes freeze and break causing damage? Did usable chemicals in the drums freeze? Wasn't Citizens responsible to protect the property? Later Citizens backed out of the $40,000 sale. Can they legally do that if property is sold "as is"? How much money did Citizens get for selling all of the business equipment, inventory and intellectual property? How can a bank cherry pick business equipment to sell but not be responsible for things of no value or that might cost money to dispose of? If Binette is supposed to rule on court cases, why did he rely upon an opinion from Magistrate Steve Bechtel? Binette is the elected judge and not Bechtel. Maybe Binette is just a puppet for others if he cannot make his own decisions based on facts? Okay heads up to all you legal experts that used to post legal advice before. Can any of you legal experts answer my questions?

Grey Ghost

I was a former employee of Ultimate Industries. The chemicals there are the same products used to make commercial insulated roof systems. It is structural urathane with a three pound density foam, it consisted of a two part mix and isosionate resin mix to make a solid product. Both products are listed as non flammable for production. No fire suppression system was even required for the process. While I was there, zylene was used in small quantities and was discarded in accordance with EPA requirements. The rest was natural pigments for color process.

Julie R.

Property sold at a Sheriff's Sale through foreclosure or back taxes IS sold "as is." That's why the Sheriff's Department warns people to have a title search done PRIOR to bidding on property. And Citizen's attorney, Jim McGookey, doesn't know this? Yeah, right. Glad to see the 6th District Court of Appeals didn't allow Binette, his magistrate and McGookey to get away with THIS one.

I also would like to mention that people should NEVER base a title search on what the Erie County Recorder has online because those records are misleading, untrue and incorrect.

tk

It doesn't matter who's responsible for the cleanup. We know who will ultimately get the bill, don't we?

Joker

Regarding another property near W Boalt St, why is a building with a 6 foot section of wall (including a corner) missing not condemned and razed? I'm speaking of one of the out buildings at the old Esmond Dairy. http://www.facebook.com/home.php...

Pretty dilapidated right?

Exxcellent

moderators have removed this comment because it contained personal attacks and libelous or defamatory statements.

concernedtruth

Well, here is my two cents worth, if a business closes as a result of either mismanagement or whatever and there is debt owed the owners of the company have to pay the debt. If the owners of the company pass away then if there was money from an insurance policy, some or all of that money should go to pay a debt. In this case 49 barrels of 55 gallon drums of hazardous materials are the responsibility of the owners, you don't get that much hazardous materials in a few weeks or months, it was building up and they didn't want to pay to get rid of it, the responsibility is the owners. However the building has been foreclosed and if these barrels should of been removed the original owner who put the materials there should make arrangements with the EPA and some sort of payment program to remove the materials, they enjoyed the sales of the products, now they need to pay for the removal of the trash.The responsiblity is not Citizens Bank.

thinktwice

On a positive note excluding who gets the bill, the toxic waste containers WILL BE REMOVED regardless of who pays the bill. That should be our main concern. The original owner and the bank both made their money here and let them figure out how to pay for it. The only time a bank knows you anyway is when your alive, capable of paying and owing. Let them apply for another " bailout" to pay for this as well. Have a few coctails as they ponder it as well.

CheObama

I like the use of the word "toxic" chemicals, what are they solvents, paint, paint thinners, laquer, pigments for their artifical rock and rock waterfalls? Disposal cost are high for "Hazardous" waste. curious if any of them are still usable or if they have passed their shelf life?

Salvatore

How many of these 49 barrels contain true hazardous waste? Is it possible that the other drums contain usable solvents, paint and other fluids that can be sold to others? I am only speculating that maybe the hazardous wastes are actually synthetic rocks that were not manufactured correctly and broken up. Why didn't Citizens sell for $100,000 in 2005 when there was a buyer? Citizens sold the equipment and typical business equipment including intellectual property and later bought the property at a sheriffs sale for $40,000 in 2006. Now isn't property bought at a sheriff's auction "as is"? Who put the hole in the roof to remove spraying equipment and who failed to maintain heat in the building? Did the pipes freeze and break causing damage? Did usable chemicals in the drums freeze? Wasn't Citizens responsible to protect the property? Later Citizens backed out of the $40,000 sale. Can they legally do that if property is sold "as is"? How much money did Citizens get for selling all of the business equipment, inventory and intellectual property? How can a bank cherry pick business equipment to sell but not be responsible for things of no value or that might cost money to dispose of? If Binette is supposed to rule on court cases, why did he rely upon an opinion from Magistrate Steve Bechtel? Binette is the elected judge and not Bechtel. Maybe Binette is just a puppet for others if he cannot make his own decisions based on facts? Okay heads up to all you legal experts that used to post legal advice before. Can any of you legal experts answer my questions?

Grey Ghost

I was a former employee of Ultimate Industries. The chemicals there are the same products used to make commercial insulated roof systems. It is structural urathane with a three pound density foam, it consisted of a two part mix and isosionate resin mix to make a solid product. Both products are listed as non flammable for production. No fire suppression system was even required for the process. While I was there, zylene was used in small quantities and was discarded in accordance with EPA requirements. The rest was natural pigments for color process.

Julie R.

Property sold at a Sheriff's Sale through foreclosure or back taxes IS sold "as is." That's why the Sheriff's Department warns people to have a title search done PRIOR to bidding on property. And Citizen's attorney, Jim McGookey, doesn't know this? Yeah, right. Glad to see the 6th District Court of Appeals didn't allow Binette, his magistrate and McGookey to get away with THIS one.

I also would like to mention that people should NEVER base a title search on what the Erie County Recorder has online because those records are misleading, untrue and incorrect.

tk

It doesn't matter who's responsible for the cleanup. We know who will ultimately get the bill, don't we?

Joker

Regarding another property near W Boalt St, why is a building with a 6 foot section of wall (including a corner) missing not condemned and razed? I'm speaking of one of the out buildings at the old Esmond Dairy. http://www.facebook.com/home.php...

Pretty dilapidated right?

Exxcellent

moderators have removed this comment because it contained personal attacks and libelous or defamatory statements.

concernedtruth

Well, here is my two cents worth, if a business closes as a result of either mismanagement or whatever and there is debt owed the owners of the company have to pay the debt. If the owners of the company pass away then if there was money from an insurance policy, some or all of that money should go to pay a debt. In this case 49 barrels of 55 gallon drums of hazardous materials are the responsibility of the owners, you don't get that much hazardous materials in a few weeks or months, it was building up and they didn't want to pay to get rid of it, the responsibility is the owners. However the building has been foreclosed and if these barrels should of been removed the original owner who put the materials there should make arrangements with the EPA and some sort of payment program to remove the materials, they enjoyed the sales of the products, now they need to pay for the removal of the trash.The responsiblity is not Citizens Bank.

thinktwice

On a positive note excluding who gets the bill, the toxic waste containers WILL BE REMOVED regardless of who pays the bill. That should be our main concern. The original owner and the bank both made their money here and let them figure out how to pay for it. The only time a bank knows you anyway is when your alive, capable of paying and owing. Let them apply for another " bailout" to pay for this as well. Have a few coctails as they ponder it as well.

CheObama

I like the use of the word "toxic" chemicals, what are they solvents, paint, paint thinners, laquer, pigments for their artifical rock and rock waterfalls? Disposal cost are high for "Hazardous" waste. curious if any of them are still usable or if they have passed their shelf life?

Salvatore

How many of these 49 barrels contain true hazardous waste? Is it possible that the other drums contain usable solvents, paint and other fluids that can be sold to others? I am only speculating that maybe the hazardous wastes are actually synthetic rocks that were not manufactured correctly and broken up. Why didn't Citizens sell for $100,000 in 2005 when there was a buyer? Citizens sold the equipment and typical business equipment including intellectual property and later bought the property at a sheriffs sale for $40,000 in 2006. Now isn't property bought at a sheriff's auction "as is"? Who put the hole in the roof to remove spraying equipment and who failed to maintain heat in the building? Did the pipes freeze and break causing damage? Did usable chemicals in the drums freeze? Wasn't Citizens responsible to protect the property? Later Citizens backed out of the $40,000 sale. Can they legally do that if property is sold "as is"? How much money did Citizens get for selling all of the business equipment, inventory and intellectual property? How can a bank cherry pick business equipment to sell but not be responsible for things of no value or that might cost money to dispose of? If Binette is supposed to rule on court cases, why did he rely upon an opinion from Magistrate Steve Bechtel? Binette is the elected judge and not Bechtel. Maybe Binette is just a puppet for others if he cannot make his own decisions based on facts? Okay heads up to all you legal experts that used to post legal advice before. Can any of you legal experts answer my questions?

Grey Ghost

I was a former employee of Ultimate Industries. The chemicals there are the same products used to make commercial insulated roof systems. It is structural urathane with a three pound density foam, it consisted of a two part mix and isosionate resin mix to make a solid product. Both products are listed as non flammable for production. No fire suppression system was even required for the process. While I was there, zylene was used in small quantities and was discarded in accordance with EPA requirements. The rest was natural pigments for color process.

Julie R.

Property sold at a Sheriff's Sale through foreclosure or back taxes IS sold "as is." That's why the Sheriff's Department warns people to have a title search done PRIOR to bidding on property. And Citizen's attorney, Jim McGookey, doesn't know this? Yeah, right. Glad to see the 6th District Court of Appeals didn't allow Binette, his magistrate and McGookey to get away with THIS one.

I also would like to mention that people should NEVER base a title search on what the Erie County Recorder has online because those records are misleading, untrue and incorrect.

tk

It doesn't matter who's responsible for the cleanup. We know who will ultimately get the bill, don't we?

Joker

Regarding another property near W Boalt St, why is a building with a 6 foot section of wall (including a corner) missing not condemned and razed? I'm speaking of one of the out buildings at the old Esmond Dairy. http://www.facebook.com/home.php...

Pretty dilapidated right?

Exxcellent

moderators have removed this comment because it contained personal attacks and libelous or defamatory statements.

concernedtruth

Well, here is my two cents worth, if a business closes as a result of either mismanagement or whatever and there is debt owed the owners of the company have to pay the debt. If the owners of the company pass away then if there was money from an insurance policy, some or all of that money should go to pay a debt. In this case 49 barrels of 55 gallon drums of hazardous materials are the responsibility of the owners, you don't get that much hazardous materials in a few weeks or months, it was building up and they didn't want to pay to get rid of it, the responsibility is the owners. However the building has been foreclosed and if these barrels should of been removed the original owner who put the materials there should make arrangements with the EPA and some sort of payment program to remove the materials, they enjoyed the sales of the products, now they need to pay for the removal of the trash.The responsiblity is not Citizens Bank.

thinktwice

On a positive note excluding who gets the bill, the toxic waste containers WILL BE REMOVED regardless of who pays the bill. That should be our main concern. The original owner and the bank both made their money here and let them figure out how to pay for it. The only time a bank knows you anyway is when your alive, capable of paying and owing. Let them apply for another " bailout" to pay for this as well. Have a few coctails as they ponder it as well.

CheObama

I like the use of the word "toxic" chemicals, what are they solvents, paint, paint thinners, laquer, pigments for their artifical rock and rock waterfalls? Disposal cost are high for "Hazardous" waste. curious if any of them are still usable or if they have passed their shelf life?

Salvatore

How many of these 49 barrels contain true hazardous waste? Is it possible that the other drums contain usable solvents, paint and other fluids that can be sold to others? I am only speculating that maybe the hazardous wastes are actually synthetic rocks that were not manufactured correctly and broken up. Why didn't Citizens sell for $100,000 in 2005 when there was a buyer? Citizens sold the equipment and typical business equipment including intellectual property and later bought the property at a sheriffs sale for $40,000 in 2006. Now isn't property bought at a sheriff's auction "as is"? Who put the hole in the roof to remove spraying equipment and who failed to maintain heat in the building? Did the pipes freeze and break causing damage? Did usable chemicals in the drums freeze? Wasn't Citizens responsible to protect the property? Later Citizens backed out of the $40,000 sale. Can they legally do that if property is sold "as is"? How much money did Citizens get for selling all of the business equipment, inventory and intellectual property? How can a bank cherry pick business equipment to sell but not be responsible for things of no value or that might cost money to dispose of? If Binette is supposed to rule on court cases, why did he rely upon an opinion from Magistrate Steve Bechtel? Binette is the elected judge and not Bechtel. Maybe Binette is just a puppet for others if he cannot make his own decisions based on facts? Okay heads up to all you legal experts that used to post legal advice before. Can any of you legal experts answer my questions?

Grey Ghost

I was a former employee of Ultimate Industries. The chemicals there are the same products used to make commercial insulated roof systems. It is structural urathane with a three pound density foam, it consisted of a two part mix and isosionate resin mix to make a solid product. Both products are listed as non flammable for production. No fire suppression system was even required for the process. While I was there, zylene was used in small quantities and was discarded in accordance with EPA requirements. The rest was natural pigments for color process.

Julie R.

Property sold at a Sheriff's Sale through foreclosure or back taxes IS sold "as is." That's why the Sheriff's Department warns people to have a title search done PRIOR to bidding on property. And Citizen's attorney, Jim McGookey, doesn't know this? Yeah, right. Glad to see the 6th District Court of Appeals didn't allow Binette, his magistrate and McGookey to get away with THIS one.

I also would like to mention that people should NEVER base a title search on what the Erie County Recorder has online because those records are misleading, untrue and incorrect.

tk

It doesn't matter who's responsible for the cleanup. We know who will ultimately get the bill, don't we?