CLIFTON, OH (FOX19) - City leaders have found a new use for the old District 5 police station: Salt pile.
FOX19 NOW observed huge mounds of a white substance that looks like road salt piled up Wednesday behind the former precinct on Ludlow Avenue in Clifton.
District 5 shut down earlier this year after controversy over health and working conditions there.
City officials say they are moving 8,500 tons of salt from their dome in Camp Washington temporarily to District 5 while the dome undergoes updates and repairs due to age.
They are planning to cover the salt with tarps and place sandbags around the piles to reduce rain water exposure and to limit runoff, a spokeswoman with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said.
The Ohio EPA asked the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) to check on the salt pile Wednesday after FOX19 NOW called the EPA and asked about it.
The city is following Ohio EPA guidelines for storing salt, according to a memo Wednesday from the director of the city's department of pubic services to the acting city manager.
The salt was removed beginning July 3 and will be returned to the dome when updates are made in time for the city's winter operations scheduled for November, he wrote.
The EPA has guidelines, or "best management practices," for piles of salt storage to help prevent the contamination of ground water and surface water.
A variety of Ohio organizations, including highway agencies, counties, cities, townships, distributors, and snow removal companies, stockpile salt to be spread on roads, walkways, and parking lots during the winter months to melt snow and ice.
The downside is that, if not stored properly, the salt can contaminate water resources, and the owner or operator can be held liable for the damages, according to the EPA. The environmental threat from salt storage is potentially much greater than the environmental threat from application to roads.
When stored, a large amount of salt is concentrated at a single location, which can result in very salty storm water runoff.
However, when applied, the environmental damage is generally minimized because the salt is widely dispersed and the runoff is diluted by ice and snow.
Several salt storage piles in Ohio have been identified as the source of high chlorides in public or private ground water supplies, according to the EPA.
Treatment can be difficult and expensive and, in one particular instance, a village in southwestern Ohio (Preble County's Camden) lost its wellfield due to salt contamination, according to the EPA.
While Ohio has no rules specifically governing the storage of salt, there is a law that prohibits unauthorized discharge of pollutants to waters of the state, including runoff from salt storage.
Ohio EPA considers brine created from rainfall passing through salt piles to be an industrial wastewater that is subject to permitting requirements.
For a new salt storage site, Ohio EPA's Division of Surface Water (DSW) can require a permit-to-install (PTI) to ensure adequate protection of water quality resources.
Salt piles that exceed 3,000 tons should be kept at least 300 feet from surface water, drinking, irrigation and industrial wells and dry wells and at least 100 feet from storm drains and roadside ditches.
They also should not go in flood-prone areas or places where groundwater is vulnerable to pollution.
Once the city's salt is no longer stored at District 5, it's not clear what will happen to the site.
FOX19 NOW was the first to tell you about concerns over air quality and working conditions inside the 60-year-old District 5 building in a series of investigative reports that began in November 2016.
Several officers suspected the building was linked to cancer diagnosed among dozens of current and former District 5 employees, but federal health officials concluded evidence doesn't suggest a connection.
From 2015-2016, there were six cancer-related deaths and 13 cancer diagnoses of staff under the age of 60 allegedly linked to the D5 building, according to Hils.
In all, he has said, more than 30 past and present District 4 workers over the year have been diagnosed with cancer.
Last year, the widow of a former District 5 specialist, Robert McGuire, sued the city, alleging "toxic and hazardous" substances at the building caused the lung cancer that killed him in early 2015.
The father of seven - four of his own children and three step-children - died on Jan. 15, 2015.
It was the same day District 5 Specialist Stephanie Bradford, 50, passed away from Stage 4 appendix cancer.
After the police union president took our cameras inside District 5 in November 2016 in an attempt to expose conditions there, the city agreed to his request to conduct air quality tests there.
They found no major problem and gave the building essentially a "clean bill of heath," according to former City Manager Harry Black.
Still, saying the aging building was too small for current needs, Black recommended in early 2017 that council renovate the city's vacant permit center on Central Parkway in Clifton into a new headquarters.
Last fall, after yet another District 5 officer was diagnosed with cancer, Hils called on city officials to move officers to another location by Christmas.
District 5 officers now work out of a temporary facility in College Hill.
The city is in the process of selecting a new precinct location.
District 5 serves Camp Washington, Clifton, Clifton Heights-University Heights-Fairview (CUF), College Hill, Mt. Airy, Northside, Winton Hills and Winton Place. This also includes a large portion of the University of Cincinnati, whose main campus is situated within the boundaries of District 5.