Crownsville tire dump owners face $32M in penalties

Crownsville tire dump owners face $32M in penalties

Source: Maryland Gazette, December 1, 2012
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The owners of a tire dump in Crownsville face as much as $32 million in civil penalties after the Maryland Department of the Environment filed an injunction to get the dump cleaned up.

Maryland’s attorney general filed a request on Nov. 19 in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court for an injunction against Louis Alfred Boehm Jr. and Joseph Thompson Boehm, owners of 1373 St. Stephens Church Road in Crownsville.

State officials said they gave the Boehms a chance to clean up more than 100,000 tires on the site of their father’s old landfill or pay MDE for the work, but never heard from them. In February, the MDE notified the Boehms it could seek a court order to force them to clear the tires.

Nine months later, the MDE did.

“We hope filing this in court will move the cleanup process forward,” said Jay Apperson, a spokesman for the MDE.

The MDE is seeking an injunction that would order the Boehms to submit their own plan to remove the tires, the complaint says. If the Boehms fail to do that, the MDE wants to make sure they will pay the state to do the job.

Either way, the MDE has charged the Boehms with three counts of violating state scrap tire laws — storage of tires in a manner creating a nuisance, storage of scrap tires in excess of 90 days, and maintaining a scrap tire facility in violation of state law.

Each count carries penalties of $10,000 per violation for each day of the past three years. The Boehms, who have 30 days to respond to the complaint, could not be reached for comment.

The 203-acre property, which borders the Bacon Ridge Branch natural area, has an estimated 150,000 to 5 million tires in ravines and among trees feet away from the South River’s headwaters.

There is also a history of illegal dumping at the site and questions about what, where and how much was dumped there in the 1970s and 1980s.

Crownsville residents fought to get the landfill shuttered through the early 1980s, and succeeded when the MDE ordered the site closed and stabilized in 1985.

In 2003, Louis Boehm Sr. and his wife gave the MDE access to the site for a state-funded cleanup, and the state approved $2.5 million for the effort through its Scrap Tire Program.

But that money never went to Crownsville. Boehm’s wife died in 2003 and he died in 2006, before the state could obtain necessary permits for the cleanup, including those from Anne Arundel County, state officials said. The money reverted to other Scrap Tire Program projects.

The complaint says the MDE renewed its effort to obtain access to the site in November 2010. Meanwhile, the South River Federation, a local nonprofit organization, has been pushing to get the property cleaned up.

Diana Muller, riverkeeper for the South River Federation, said the court filing is a step in the right direction.

But Muller worries the effort may keep getting pushed back. The MDE notified the Boehms it would start litigation on Feb. 24 but didn’t do so for nearly nine months. Muller said the site could take two to three years to clean up, and poses a constant threat to the environment.

Still, she’s hopeful. “I’m crossing my fingers and doing dances,” Muller said.

In a March 1 letter obtained by The Capital, Anne Arundel County Fire Chief John Robert Ray wrote MDE Assistant Attorney General Richard Waddington to describe a “disaster” scenario if the Joy- Boehm tire dump caught fire.

In line with that, the complaint says that if the tires burned, they could “impair aquatic ecosystems, such as streams, rivers and lakes.” It says unnamed tributaries of the Bacon Ridge Branch flow through the tire storage area and those tributaries are waters of the state.

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