Thursday, March 20, 2014

Painesville/Ohio EPA sign covenant to allow development at former hospital site

The city of Painesville has taken a large and important environmental step toward utilizing the eight acres which once anchored Lake Health System’s former Lake East/ East End Hospital.

Under rules adopted and administered by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the city has received what is called a “covenant not to sue” under the state’s so-called Voluntary Action Program.

Such rules protects the property’s owners, operators and any future owner from being legally responsible to the state for any further environmental investigation and remediation relating to known hazardous pollution releases, says agency spokeswoman Linda Fee Oros.

Oros said that Painesville took the initiative to hire a certified professional to assess the eight-acre site at 10 East Washington Street.  

Among the environmental concerns when the hospital closed in 2009 and subsequently torn down were potentially hazardous wastes, including asbestos, a known cancer-causing agent. All such wastes were disposed of following carefully scripted protocols, Oros said.

The dismantling of the facility was necessary due to the construction of Lake Health’s TriPoint Medical Center several miles away in Concord Township.

Oros said also the covenant remains applicable so long as the property is used and maintained in accordance with the terms and conditions of the covenant.

It is Painesville’s objective, says Oros, to develop the one-time urban brownfield into multi-family residential and commercial redevelopment use, or both.

“In the 18 years since the Ohio EPA first issued a covenant under the VAP program, more than 8,000 acres of blighted land have been revitalized at nearly 400 locations across the state,” Oros said.


  • Jeffrey  L. Frischkorn


  1. …In a June 26, 1994, Cleveland Plain Dealer article entitled Environmentalists Leery of Possible Loopholes, Chris Trepal, co-director of the Earth Day Coalition in Northeast Ohio, lambasted the enabling VAP legislation as “one of the poorest public policy measures I’ve ever seen.” A clairvoyant Richard Sahli, executive director of the Ohio Environmental Council, echoed his sentiment in the May 26, 1994, Cincinnati Post, “We do predict there will be a lot of shoddy cleanups under this bill the state will never catch.” Testifying before the House Energy & Natural Resources Committee on behalf of the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers, Cincinnati environmental lawyer David Altman asserted, “This bill is a definite bait-and-switch. What it is supposed to do and what it does is two different things.”

    A seminal, 152 page 2001 Gund Foundation funded study by the Green Environmental Council confirmed the critics’ predictions. A dearth of agency resources to provide meaningful regulatory oversight combined with the lack of a credible, established enforcement mechanism has rendered the feckless, industry aligned program toothless. “It’s a broken program – it doesn’t work,” declared the council’s Bruce Cornett in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Both the Sierra Club and Ohio Citizen Action opposed the 2000 $400 million Clean Ohio state bond issue out of concern the fungible proceeds could be utilized to prop up the lame Voluntary Action Program and create a trojan horse polluters slush fund. “This is the governor’s attempt to whitewash his EPA,” charged Jane Forrest Redfern, environmental projects director for Ohio Citizen Action in a November 1, 2000, Cleveland Plain Dealer article. Dedicated professionals, veteran Ohio EPA bureaucrats attempted to rectify the problem. According to the October 4, 2000, Cleveland Plain Dealer, “EPA staffers who shared some of the environmentalists’ concerns, at one point launched a quiet but unsuccessful campaign to disband the program.”

    For six years after the Voluntary Action Program’s 1996 implementation, the U.S. EPA refused to extend program participants federal immunity and threatened to decertify the Ohio EPA due to the VAP’s expansive, inhibiting secrecy provisions and tangible lack of transparency. In a brokered, bifurcated modification to the Ohio VAP that “frankly doesn’t make sense at all,” according to Ohio Public Interest Research Group director Amy Simpson (Akron Beacon Journal, February 24, 2001), an alternative “memorandum of agreement” VAP track with enhanced public access was crafted. Companies that elect the original, opaque, “classic” option, which conceals under an embargo the extent and nature of contamination, will not be afforded U.S. EPA liability insulation. “Why Ohio would want a two-headed monster is beyond me,” quipped the Ohio Environmental Council’s Jack Shaner. In SCA’s case, the jaundiced, green and incompliant wants to hide what you can’t see.

    Mark Chesler
    Oberlin, Ohio

  2. Great Post, I love to read articles that are informative and actually have good content. Thank you for sharing your experiences and I look forward to reading more.
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