UNION BRIDGE — A consultant to the company that supplies waste materials for LehighPortland Cement Co. to burn in its kilns was convicted eight years ago of conspiring to dump chemical waste in a New Jersey landfill.
Residents opposed to Lehigh's plan to burn carbon waste found the information about the supplier's former chairman and chief executive officer during a computer search of newspaper stories and have given it to the Maryland Department of the Environment.
Residents say they hope the information will persuade the state to deny Lehigh a permit to burn carbon waste, a non-hazardous waste, as an alternative fuel.
Lehigh also has applied to the state to burn hazardous wastes, such as paint products.
In 1983, Herbert G. Case Jr., who now lives in Martinsville, N.J., and two others were convicted of conspiracy and mail fraud in a plot to dump millions of gallons of chemical waste in a Freehold, N.J., landfill and the Newark, N.J., sewer system.
Case was sentenced to serve 18 months in federal prison and pay a $2,000 fine. He served one year and one day in 1985-1986 and paid a $2,000 fine.
Lehigh plant manager David H. Roushsaid yesterday that he met Case once but did not know about the conviction.
Case, 47, said yesterday that he was chairman and chief executive officer of Cemtech Inc. of Middlesex, N.J., until April. Lehigh's Union Bridge plant has contracted since 1986 with a Cemtech subsidiary, Patchem Inc., to supply waste oil for use as a fuel in its kilns. Patchem has a facility at the plant here.
Patchem also would supply the carbon to Lehigh if the state gives the company permissionto burn the material in its kilns.
Case and Patchem never dealt with Lehigh "in any way that wasn't completely ethical or legal," Roush said. Lehigh corporate officials in Allentown, Pa., made the decision to contract with Patchem, he said.
Members of Residents for a Healthier Union Bridge Area are "suspicious" of the company, said Rudolph Medicus, one of the founders of the citizens group.
"I'm not saying (Case) would do something wrong, but it doesn't look good for the permit. It doesn't look good for making the community feel comfortable."
RHUBA sent the information about Case to state Secretary ofthe Environment Robert Perciasepe May 20. When members did not hear from him in 10 days, they released it to area newspapers, said RHUBA member Kent Doxzon.
"There's a smoking gun there to warrant comingout and alarming the public," said Medicus.
Cemtech's attorney responded Monday by sending a letter to Perciasepe calling some of RHUBA's information "inaccurate and misleading."
"Our company is proudof its compliance and regulatory history. . . . The safe yet practical management of hazardous waste has always been a major priority andwill continue to be so," he wrote.
Michael Sullivan, an MDE spokesman, said state officials are reviewing the information.
Case said he was convicted for activities that took place in 1977 when he worked for Scientific Chemical Processing Co. of Newark and Carlstadt, N.J. He worked for the company 10 years, until 1980, as sales manager and vice president.
In 1981, he started Intersol Industries Corp.,which until April was a subsidiary of Cemtech. Cemtech was founded by Case in 1988 as a holding company for Intersol, Patchem and a thirdsubsidiary -- Kiln Chemistry and Resources Inc. -- Case said.
A January 1991 business information report from Dun & Bradstreet showed that Case's wife, Patricia Kleca, then owned 60 percent of Cemtech's capital stock. Case was not listed as an owner or officer of the company.
After his experience with Scientific Chemical Processing Co.,Case said, "I was paranoid about doing things properly. I recognizedthat not only do companies have to follow the letter of the law, butthey have to follow the spirit of the law. I did learn that."
In the late 1970s, the waste industry was evolving from an unregulated to a regulated one, Case said.
"There were many gray areas. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.
In April, Cemtech was sold to a limited partnership of the nation's largest cement manufacturer and the largest hazardous waste management company in the United States. The new owners are Holnam Inc. of Dundee, Mich., and Chemical Waste Management Inc. of Oakbrook, Ill.
The new owners appointed a new chairman from Chemical Waste Management. Case said he and his wife, who also worked at Scientific Chemical Processing and Cemtech, are working as Cemtech consultants until September.
Cemtech hasoperations at five cement plants and has about 100 employees, general counsel Ronald M. Kaplan said.
Sales in 1990 were just under $20million, Case said.
Doxzon said RHUBA began looking into Patchem after a Washington consultant spoke here last month and urged residents to be wary of "middlemen" in the hazardous waste industry.
Doxzon said, "Lehigh's not dirty. We're not out to get Lehigh. We said, 'Let's look at the middle people.' "
If Lehigh is allowed to burn the carbon and hazardous wastes, RHUBA would like to be able to hire an independent tester paid for by Lehigh, he said.
Currently, Patchem contracts with Environmental Laboratory Services Inc. in New Castle, Pa., to test the waste oil brought to the plant. The state requires an independent lab to do the testing, said Patrick J. Copple, ELS owner.