Polluters Face Fines For Resisting Penalties

August 28, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

The 10 Pennsylvania companies found liable by the Environmental Protection Agency for contaminating the Keystone Landfill have not complied with the agency's order and could face daily fines of $25,000 each, an EPA attorney said.

The EPA plans to notify the companies thatthey haven't met the requirements of the order, which mandates an "unequivocal and unqualified commitment" to design and implement a planto clean surrounding ground water and cap the landfill, agency attorney James Heenehan said.

The EPA required the companies to submit plans by Aug. 21 for theestimated $11 million project.

Attorneys representing the companies say the EPA has made unreasonable demands and question the agency's engineering studies and recommended procedures.

Contaminants were detected in 1982 at the landfill, about a quarter-mile north of Carroll in Adams County, Pa. Monitoring wells in the Silver Run area of Carroll have shown contamination traced to the landfill.

Silver Run-area residents, fearing contamination of water supplies, formed a coalition in 1984 to lobby for the landfill's cleanup.

The EPA maintains that no residential wells near Keystone have shown contamination above allowable limits. The agency has tested eight wells in the Silver Run area because of residents' concerns.

Some homeowners contend that the EPA's tests could be unreliable and say county and private testing has detected some of the same pollutants found in the landfill, said Susan Hardinger, president of People Against Contaminationof the Environment.

The 10 companies will have three days to respond after receiving a letter from the EPA, then could be presumed in violation, Heenehan said. The agency would have to file a civil lawsuit in federal court to have fines imposed.

Eight companies responded to the EPA's order as one entity, saying they would implement remedial design work but would comply with other requirements "if and to the extent that the order is supported by the facts and the law."

Heenehan said the response is qualified and unacceptable. However, hesaid it's "entirely conceivable the parties will end up doing everything they're supposed to," adding that the EPA told the companies to proceed with design work.

Keystone Sanitation Co. and Emeco Industries Inc. of Hanover indicated that they did not intend to comply, hesaid. Both also are negotiating plans with the eight-company group.

Franklin Kury, attorney for Keystone Sanitation owners Kenneth andAnna Noel, said the EPA's order is flawed because it has not been determined the public is "imminently endangered." He also called the EPA's remedy measures "arbitrary and capricious." He objects to spending an additional $9 million on the project -- the difference between aPennsylvania order to pump and clean the water and the EPA's additional requirement to cap the landfill.

"We're puzzled why EPA is so inflexible over the landfill when contamination is so weak and limited," Kury said. "We're willing to cooperate and spend a reasonable amount, but what's been ordered is unjustified for what's on site."

An attorney for Alloy Rods Corp. of Hanover, one of the eight companies, said he believes the EPA has "botched the job" and has "gone overboard" with requirements. Joel Burcat said private studies commissioned by Alloy conflict with the EPA's findings.

"We've bent over backward to comply," he said. "We feel these companies are victims of predatory tactics taken by EPA."

An attorney representing another of the eight companies said some parts of the order are too broad or scientifically impractical.

The EPA is investigating other companies that could be added to the order.

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