State Digest


April 13, 2006

Mining company fined $50,000 by Md.

The Maryland Department of the Environment ordered Buffalo Coal Co. Inc. yesterday to pay a $50,000 fine and take immediate action to abate pollution of a stream in Allegany County near the company's Phillips surface mine near Lonaconing.

The agency said Buffalo has violated its pollution permit by discharging waste that exceeds the limits for acidity, manganese and total suspended solids.

The company also has ceased proper operation and maintenance of a wastewater treatment system at the site, causing untreated acid mine drainage to enter Jackson Run, a tributary of Georges Creek, state regulators alleged.

Acid mine drainage occurs when groundwater laden with minerals from an underground mine reaches the surface and is converted through contact with oxygen into toxic acid.

"Though this situation presents no immediate public health or safety threat, these are continuing violations of water pollution laws and we must act now to protect the waters and related environment," MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick said.

Buffalo Coal reportedly closed its operations in Maryland and West Virginia this past winter after Dominion Resources canceled a contract for the company's coal for its Mount Storm, W.Va., power plant.

The telephone number at the company's headquarters in Oakland was not in service yesterday.



Court throws out conviction because of lengthy interrogation

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has thrown out the convictions of a Prince George's man convicted of killing a couple at a Bladensburg animal hospital, saying the county police questioned him for too long to get self-incriminating statements.

Two juries have convicted Robert Angel Perez and Thomas Jefferson Gordon III of killing a veterinarian and his wife in 1999, but all four convictions have been overturned.

The Court of Special Appeals ruled Tuesday that Perez's statements could not be admitted because police waited 52 hours before taking him in front of a court commissioner, who advises defendants of their rights. State law requires police to take a suspect before a commissioner within 24 hours of arrest.

Perez gave police an oral and written statement after 41 hours of interrogation. The appeals court threw both out, but said prosecutors can use two written statements he made during the first 24 hours describing the crime.

The decision marked the fifth time since June 2003 that Maryland appeals courts have thrown out convictions because of interrogations that lasted too long.

Perez was convicted in 2004 of killing Nirwan Thapar and his wife, Shashi. The couple were killed in the Bladensburg Animal Hospital after being attacked during a robbery. Three of Perez's and Gordon's convictions were overturned on appeal because of errors by the trial judge.

State's Attorney Glenn Ivey said his office would retry Perez and Gordon.



Zoo gets deadline to build quarantine facility for animals

Salisbury Zoo officials have been given until 2008 to construct a new medical facility that would keep sick animals quarantined. They said they may need a fundraising push or a state grant to meet it.

The American Zoo and Aquarium Association set the deadline after a visit last year to inspect the facility in light of allegations about animal neglect and poor care practices.

"This is fundamental to our AZA accreditation and also to the future of the zoo," zoo director Jim Rapp said this week. He said the zoo has already accomplished some goals related to food preparation and zookeeper training.

The quarantine building doesn't have construction funds budgeted, although $65,000 is available for design work. Cost is estimated at $2 million.


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