by Andrea Cole

Associate Editor

Stow -- TRC Industries Inc. CEO Richard Bowers is "optimistic" the business can meet the city's end of February deadline to reduce the odor coming from its Commerce Drive plant.

Bowers said the company started using a non-synthetic material to recycle rubber last year.

"Based on directives from the [Environmental Protection Agency], in conjunction with Akron Air Pollution, we are working on a series of experiments to determine the amount of pollutants, and then to determine exactly what chemical is causing the odor," he said.

He added the odor is not harmful, based on tests that have been conducted by the EPA.

But Don Popa, who lives near the business on Higby Drive, has described the odor as "sickening."

"[Because of the odor], we can't go outside and enjoy the fresh air," he said.

City officials are working with the company and want the odor reduced or eliminated by Feb. 28, or the city may consider taking legal action.

Bowers said TRC has two systems in place to reduce the odor.

"We're not sure it will ever be completely eliminated, but we feel we can significantly reduce it," he said.

Bowers said he hopes to increase the height of the smoke stacks on the roof of TRC, adding that is a short-term solution.

"We hope to raise the stacks 20 to 25 feet in the air," he said. "Because our building sits so low, the current stacks are not too high above street level. A lot of times the steam is going into residents' ventilation systems. By raising the stacks, it will cut down considerably on the odor at the lower level."

Bowers said TRC also hopes to install a long-term solution.

"We hope to blow the air into an underground condensing unit," he said.

According to Law Director Joe Haefner, the city could file a civil lawsuit against TRC for "offensive odors."

"If they do not remove the smell, a complaint for noxious odors could be filed in Cuyahoga Falls Municipal Court," he said. "If the court determined the company violated city law, [TRC] could be fined each day the odor continued. Another option could be to prohibit the company from using the process."

Haefner said it is possible the deadline could be extended, but it would be a decision for Council and the administration.

However, Councilmember Ron Alexander said, "the deadline of Feb. 28 is set in stone in my mind."

"If it's not solved, I will make a motion to initiate a civil suit," he said. "I hope it doesn't come to that, though. It sounds as if the owner is working toward solutions for the problem."

Haefner said he does not recall the city fining a company for odors in the past.

"We have had noise complaints about businesses, but they have always been resolved," he said. "The administration and Council are ready to take action, if necessary. We try to be fair and equitable with the company, and we understand certain steps [to reduce the odor] take time, which we will take into account."