TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Residents in neighborhoods that were enveloped by smoke while a landfill burned for days this past spring say they're now suffering from headaches and breathing problems.
Unions representing workers who responded to the fire say they're also concerned about the potential long-term effects of the fire.
The landfill in northern Toledo that has been around for decades and most recently was a dump for construction and demolition debris caught fire in early May. Nearby residents were told to stay inside because of fears over what might be in the air.
But environmental regulators now say a report about to be released shows nothing alarming was found in air and water samples during the fire.
"What I was really happy to see was that we didn't have as much asbestos as we could have had," said Betsy Nightingale, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's emergency response team coordinator at the fire. "I was personally nervous about that."
A local health official told The Blade that he doesn't think anyone was exposed but that it's impossible to say that with absolute certainty.
Sampling results also are limited because they examine a snapshot in time, said Eric Zgodzinski, Toledo-Lucas County health community and environmental services director.
Some residents said it was too much of a coincidence that so many people are feeling sick.
They also said they've been worried for years about the odors from the landfill.
"It's aggravated my physical problems tremendously," said Judith Lerner, who lives near the landfill. "It affects us on this block really bad. It all depends on which way the wind is blowing."
Three local unions representing firefighters and other workers involved with containing the fire have met with city officials and want a broader investigation.
"Our biggest concerns are the long-term, chronic effects of what our folks might have been breathing," said Steve Kowalik, a union director with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees in Toledo.