N.J. steel company fined $120,000 for dumping waste

June 08, 1994|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Sun Staff Writer

In one of the biggest pollution penalties ever levied in Maryland, a New Jersey-based company was fined $120,000 yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court for illegally disposing of hazardous waste in the Curtis Bay area.

Harris Structural Steel Co. Inc. of Piscataway, N.J., pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal transportation and disposal of hazardous waste. Maryland State police had seized 21 drums during a 1992 raid at the company's truck terminal near Benhill Road and Curtis Avenue.

Acting on an anonymous tip, state police assigned to the attorney general's Environmental Crimes Unit saw a tractor-trailer arrive and dump a load of wood chips and drums. Police moved in when a backhoe started to crush the drums.

Most of the drums contained dried paint, but four held flammable liquid solvents, such as acetone, toluene and xylene, which are considered hazardous wastes. It is illegal to transport, store or dispose of such waste without a state permit.

Nearby was another waste pile that contained the remnants of 15 or 20 drums, along with discolored soils and other debris, said Bernard A. Penner, the assistant attorney general who prosecuted the case.

Greg Bernstein, a lawyer for the steel-hauling company, blamed the incident on unfamiliarity with regulations governing hazardous-waste disposal. He noted that the company promptly cleaned up the site, at a cost of about $130,000. There was no permanent damage to the environment, he said.

Judge Joseph McCurdy levied the maximum $100,000 fine for each count but suspended $50,000 of the penalty and gave the company credit for $30,000 spent on cleaning up the site.

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