Source of smoke remains a mystery

COLUMBIANA – A mysterious smoke and odor wafting through town area every so often may not be coming from the Columbiana Floral Company, although the business isn’t off the radar yet, Police Chief Tim Gladis said Tuesday.

Gladis told City Council he drove past the business after the last council meeting in which some residents said they believed the hazy, yellowish fog, was coming from there.

He said he didn’t see a fog that night but contacted business owner Pat MacAleese later and was given a tour of the facility on Springfield Road.

“They are aware they are not permitted to burn any cardboard or any other things, flower clippings,” he said.

The two residents who approached council last month said they believed the business was burning debris such as cardboard boxes and old flowers in the early mornings and late evenings.

Gladis said during the tour he was shown the outdoor heater used to heat the building during the cold weather months. The heater is fueled by wood or coal and when stoked activates heat inside the building, he explained.

“I asked them if it was possible for anyone to put anything like that (cardboard or clippings) in there and he said it wasn’t possible,” he said.

The business stoked the heater twice a day and shut it off on May 8, although it was used once since then, he added.

He said he inspected the burner and its chimneys and found nothing.

MacAleese also showed him the field behind the building where the flower clippings are disposed.

“They put the flower clippings on the field and run over them with a brush hog or mower to chop into fine pieces. I could clearly see the flower clippings and some of the new flowers they dumped out there. It was all organic material, no Styrofoam or anything illegal,” the chief said.

He went on to say MacAleese even told him he is willing to give anyone with a complaint a tour of the building, including a look at the burner to show nothing illegal is inside.

“He said he wants to be completely transparent, a good neighbor. He emphatically denies being the source of the smoke,” he said.

Whether or not the business is the source, Gladis said he “isn’t sure.”

City Manager Lance Willard said Environmental Protection Agency records indicate the problem dates back to 2011.

Gladis said an EPA investigator met with MacAleese then to go over what items were and were not permissible to burn after finding they had been burning cardboard.

He said residents seeing and smelling the smoke should contact the police department immediately so an officer can attempt to locate the source.

Should it be determined the source is not breaking any burning or other laws, the police department does have a device that can aid residents who may suffer from breathing problems as a result, he added.