Joppa Mining Company Keeps Fighting State Penalties

Harford Sands Asks Circuit Court To Drop $16,500 In Fines

January 20, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

A Joppa sand and gravel mining company, fined $16,500 by the state for polluting a Gunpowder River tributary, has asked in Harford Circuit Court that the fines be dropped.

State Department of the Environment officials, who have been attempting for two years to force the company, Harford Sands Inc., to rectify sediment pollution from the company site, say the request should be denied.

They cite Harford Sands' record of shirking state orders to control the runoff.

"In my experience, Harford Sands will go down in mymemory banks as a company that is almost Neanderthal in its apparentattitude concerning environmental laws," said Timmerman T. Daugherty, who prepared the DOE's final order in the case.

Larry G. Stancill, president of Harford Sands, said he is "astounded" by the Daugherty's comments. "I have never done anything down there that has done any harm," he said.

Stancill said he believes his company is being hounded by DOE officials because of an "adversarial relationship" that has ex

isted between Harford Sands and the department since the early 1980s.

Harford Sands mines and processes industrial sand and gravel on a 79-acre site at 40 Fort Hoyle Road.

In Daugherty's Nov. 9 order, Harford Sands was told to pay the fines for 25 violations that occurred in 1988. The state also has advised Harford Sands to install equipment to control the sediment runoff.

Harford Sands' lawyer, Robert B. Scarlett of Baltimore, who filed an appeal on the state's order, argues that paying the fines and installing the necessary equipment would be too expensive. It could put the 49-year-old company out of business, he said.

However, the company provided the DOE with no specific financial information to show that could happen and the department dismissed the argument.

The company acknowledged in aresponse to the DOE complaint concerning the sediment runoff that itwas in violation of state environmental protection laws and the company's operating permit.

The state filed its complaint in February 1989 and contends in department records that the company has known ofthe violations since 1986.

But Scarlett said it's impossible for Harford Sands to comply to its permit because runoff from surrounding properties, including the Magnolia school complex, overburdens the company's discharge treatment system.

The dispute involves sediment runoff from the company's mining operation into an unnamed stream that flows into Reardon Inlet. The inlet, which is on the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, feeds into the Gunpowder River. The Gunpowder flows into Chesapeake Bay.

In 1988, the state found throughon-site inspections and a review of company reports that sediment runoff from Harford Sands' property exceeded limits for turbidity and total suspended solids allowed under its state permit, state records show.

Total suspended solids are the amount of solid material, suchas sand and dirt, in water. Turbidity is determined by the amount oflight that can pass through water.

Turbidity and suspended solidshave been shown by bay scientists to affect adversely underwater plants, which some aquatic life rely on for food and shelter.

Scarlett, Harford Sands' lawyer, contends that the company did not cause anysignificant damage to the environment.

But Daugherty said the pollutants pose a threat to water quality and aquatic life, though they are non-toxic and don't pose a health hazard to people.

The complaint filed against Harford Sands focuses on a filtration system made up of three sediment control ponds. The state found that the system was allowing too much sediment to flow into the unnamed stream.

Water used in the sand- and gravel-processing operations at the site flows into one sediment control pond. As that pond overflows, the water dumps into the other ponds before it is released in the stream.

Thecompany uses up to 40 million gallons of water a year for its processing operations, DOE documents show. Water also drains into the ponds from stockpiled sand and the company's pump house.

Sand, mud anddirt in the water are supposed to settle in the bottom of the ponds before the water reaches the stream. However, DOE officials say the ponds are not deep enough and have been found to overflow during storms.

Edward S. Gertler, who heads the Department of Environment's Industrial Point Source Division, called Harford Sands' treatment system a "questionable practice." A company with such a system today wouldbe denied a DOE permit, he said.

Stancill, the president of Harford Sands, wrote the department Aug. 8, 1989, informing officials thatthe company installed a $2,743 pump to prevent leakage at its drainage system.

Stancill said in the letter that he installed the pump to show the company's "good faith."

He also pointed out in the letter that DOE officials had told him that if the company took action to solve its discharge problems, "you might look more favorably on an agreement whereby Harford spends monies on such action rather than punitive penalties."

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