By CARL E. FEATHER - email@example.com
ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —
Warning signs posted on the fence of the former ESAB Welding and Cutting Products plant on Middle Road are standard operating procedure for a former industrial facility undergoing decommissioning.
The signs warn “This facility contains or is contaminated with regulated substances that may endanger public health or safety if released to the environment.” Ashtabula Township Fire Department Chief Michael Fitchet says the signs have been up since June 2012.
The plant ceased its operations in July 2012 after relocating the production facility to South Carolina. About 120 jobs were lost. The plant made welding wire; in the 1950s, the site briefly hosted a titanium plant, as well.
Mike Settles, spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said ESAB was following the agency’s cessation of regulated operations (CRO) program when it posted the signs. He said the signs must remain posted while any regulated substances are being removed from the plant.
“They have to post that warning sign until the property has been cleared by the EPA,” he said.
The signs ought not be taken as an indication of radiation or other human health hazards remaining at the site. Settles said clean-up work has been ongoing at the plant and a walk-through inspection was conducted there on Dec. 20.
“They still had some things to do in there,” he said.
Among the potentially dangerous substances remaining in the plant were refrigerators containing refrigerants, oil-based paint and refractory brick.
“The big stuff that would have been associated with an old industrial complex has been removed,” Settles said.
He said one of the reasons the signs are required is that youngsters and vandals often target the abandoned sites and sometimes release dangerous chemicals or get injured in the process. The Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department investigated several weeks ago an incident of a stainless steel tank and lockers missing from the facility.