State sues Westminster company in environmental case

March 12, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

State environmental officials have sued a Westminster machining and welding business, accusing the company of illegally discharging wastewater with excessive amounts of copper for more than 20 years.

The maximum penalty for the alleged offense is $10,000 a day for each violation, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Carroll County Circuit Court by lawyers for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The state alleges that Laser Applications Inc., in the 1100 block of Business Parkway South, has never had a permit to discharge wastewater from its "water jet" cutting processes. The business has been performing laser and water jet machining, metal and nonmetal welding, and machining services since 1979, according to the suit.

On Sept. 14, Carroll County health officials received a complaint about suspected polluted runoff in a storm drainage ditch north of the Laser facility, the suit says. A county sanitation engineer investigated and referred the suspected violation to MDE officials.

State inspectors visited the facility Sept. 29 and reported finding an unauthorized discharge of sandy gray wastewater, the lawsuit said.

MDE inspectors said they informed Laser's chief executive officer that the company was violating state environmental regulations and would remain in violation until the discharge was eliminated.

The wastewater, MDE officials said, flowed into a storm drain and then into a storm drainage ditch that flows into a tributary of the West Branch Patapsco River, which flows into Liberty Reservoir.

The water jet machinery uses "finely crushed ferro aluminum silicate," called "garnet," and water, MDE officials said. Wastewater samples were found to have copper levels exceeding state regulations, according to the lawsuit.

MDE officials said the facility, which operates 24 hours a day, five or seven days a week, discharges about 18,000 gallons of wastewater a day. The lawsuit contends that Laser continued its unauthorized discharge until Nov. 12, when it was connected to Westminster's sanitary sewer system.

Damian L. Halstad, corporate attorney for Laser, declined to discuss the allegations, saying he had received a courtesy copy of the lawsuit but had not been formally served.

He said he would meet with Laser officials to prepare a response.

Jennifer L. Wazenski, assistant attorney general, is representing MDE. She declined to discuss the pending litigation.

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