Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has closed one of its stores in the Cleveland area built atop a landfill amid concerns about potentially explosive methane gas.
An independent contractor confirmed there is a problem with the odorless gas generated by rotting garbage, said Tara Stewart, a spokeswoman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer. The closure of the store is probably permanent, she said.
The store also had electrical and plumbing problems and a shifting foundation, Stewart said.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency recently threatened to shut down the entire City View Center after finding methane under the big-box retail plaza. The agency asked several weeks ago for more monitoring and venting of the gas. Since then, the center's owners have been working to fix the problem.
Center opened in 2006
No other tenants have pulled out of the center, which opened in 2006 as the first major commercial development in Ohio to be built atop a landfill.
Chuck Satchwill, City View's senior project manager, said he was shocked by Wal-Mart's decision.
"As far as we know, everything is under control and everything is safe," he said.
The Wal-Mart store's 172 employees were told they could work at another Wal-Mart of their choice, and as of Tuesday 115 had been placed, Stewart said.
"Wal-Mart often builds and owns its buildings. We didn't build this building," Stewart said. "Everything was creating a volatile environment in and around the store. If we felt it was something that could be fixed, we could have stayed in the store. At this point we're confident the problems can't be fixed."
Garfield Heights Mayor Thomas Longo said the plaza has no safety problem, citing reports from the city's fire department. He questioned Wal-Mart's stated motivation for closing the store, saying the company might not have been satisfied with the number of customers because there are two other Wal-Mart stores in the area.
"It's a business decision," Longo said. "It's a dollars-and-cents issue with these people."
Ohio EPA inspectors said earlier this year they found methane in sewer basins under the retail plaza's parking lots and in a nearby hill of dirt-covered garbage.
The state attorney general's office followed with a civil lawsuit against Garfield Heights and City View's owners, seeking penalties of up to $10,000 a day for each alleged environmental violation.
Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com