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Ohio company fined $160,000 for polluting Monroeville stream

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Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012

The state Department of Environmental Protection has fined an Ohio company $160,000 for a former employee's disposal of a herbicide, pesticide and fertilizer mixture into a Monroeville stream in 2010.

Marysville, Ohio-based EG Systems, which does business as Scotts Lawn Service in the Pittsburgh area, terminated the employee after the incident at its facility on Eldo Road in Monroeville Business Park, spokesman Lance Latham said on Wednesday.

Court records identify the former employee as Ronald F. Vargo of Oakland. There was no answer at his home.

"We have a very specialized training program, and I can't speculate why he would have gone outside our procedures," Latham said.

Vargo set up a siphon system that ran from an 8,000-gallon holding tank inside the Monroeville facility to a gutter downspout drain outside the building, the DEP said. The drain empties into a storm sewer that flows into a tributary that flows into Thompson Run.

Vargo used the siphon to funnel 5 gallons of the mixture in a test-run on June 30, 2010, and between 800 and 1,000 gallons of the mixture the next day, the DEP said.

"He had an excess amount of this stuff, and he needed to get rid of it. Instead of dumping it properly, he decided to dump it into the storm sewer," DEP spokesman John Poister said.

The agency learned of the disposal after business-park tenants complained to police and the fire department about the odor, the DEP said. Chief Ronald Harvey, of Monroeville Station 5, said firefighters put up dams, shut off the sewer, ventilated the building and called the DEP and other authorities.

Scotts Lawn Service hired an environmental contractor, which removed 736 gallons of liquid containing the mixture from the interceptor trench over about six days, Poister said.

"There were no injuries related to it that I know of," said Paul Hugus, Monroeville's code-compliance and community safety director.

Once the mixture entered the sewer system, it was watered down because there had been a lot of rain; therefore, much of the mixture dissipated, Poister said.

On July 25, Vargo entered a plea of no contest to unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law, said Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.

Common Pleas Judge Donald Machen sentenced Vargo to two years' probation; fined him $2,500, made payable to the Clean Water Fund; and ordered 40 hours of community service, Frederiksen said.

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