Source: http://www.baxterbulletin.com, March 18, 2014
By: Frank Wallis
The state’s top enforcer of environmental law says a facility at 831 County Road 784 that holds hundreds of thousands of waste tires is front-and-center for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s legal team.
“We’re just going to have to figure out how and who we sue, and what claims we allege. We want to make sure we have all parties who might have responsibility. We want to make sure we get it done right,” ADEQ Director Teresa Marks said Tuesday during a meeting of the Ozark Mountain Regional Solid Waste Management District’s (WMD) board of directors.
The WMD is the permit holder for the storage and tire baling site owned by Kenton Treat at the time the permit was issued. ADEQ now looks mainly to the late owner’s son, Kenton F. Treat, to take responsibility for the site.
Marks said she anticipates a lawsuit will be filed within the coming 30 days absent assurances from Treat that a plan to move and repurpose the tires is moving forward. She said contracts that may join the late Treat, a limited liability corporation, the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District and the WMD are “in a mess.”
“There’s not any clear-cut legal trail we can follow,” Marks said. “Right now, we do have our attorneys looking into it and do intend to move forward. We do intend to make sure this is resolved.”
Marks said she anticipates the lawsuit to list multiple causes of action, including violations of state laws that define an “illegal tire dump.” Many of the baled tires lie outside approved boundaries for the site. Owners and operators who continued to receive payments from the state for tires that exceed a permitted storage number also may be culpable.
“He took more (tires) than he was supposed to, so we’ve got several causes of action coming into play. Part of the action is an illegal tire dump,” Marks said.
The board discussed the $75,000 on deposit in a financial assurance fund that was believed adequate 14 years ago to cover any cost of site restoration at the end of its use as a tire baling and storage facility.
The board has long agreed the sum will fall well short of funding needed to move the tires or to enlarge a dam nearby that forms a lake from spring water.
Multiple limited liability corporations have conducted business at the site including Tireco Inc. and Damco Inc. Damco partnered with the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission in the lake project at the beginning of the tire baling venture. A goal was to show how the bales may be used in construction of earthen dams.
The Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District (EDD) may be one of the responsible parties that ADEQ is looking for in the tire suit.
Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney, a past chairman of the WMD board, reminded the board that most of the apparent violations of storage limits at the tire site happened under the watch of the EDD board of directors.
The late Treat was chairman of that board.
The baling operation was permitted to store up to 28,000 tires. During the most recent inspection, it held about 400,000 tires in and outside the permitted area.
McKinney said the EDD board did nothing to make the WMD board aware of the tire site problems. Inspections of the site showed it was in perfect compliance with state regulations in 19 successive inspections, McKinney said. The perfect scores ended with an inspection on April 4, 2010, after the landfill and tire site were thrown into the limelight created during a very public rift between the WMD and EDD boards and employees for control of the landfill.
The EDD also managed WMD’s landfill in north Baxter County, which now is part of bankruptcy proceedings and moving toward ADEQ control as far as its closure and repair. The management contract with the EDD came at a cost to the WMD of $340,000 a year, according to WMD board member David Osmon.
The relationship between the two boards is a convoluted one.
The WMD, which serves Baxter, Marion, Boone, Newton, Searcy and Carroll counties, is directed by a board comprised of mayors, county judges or proxies from the same counties.
The EDD board, comprised of Baxter, Boone, Benton, Carroll, Madison, Marion, Newton, Searcy and Washington counties, is overseen by mayors, judges, proxies or appointees from those counties.
The two boards share some of the same board members.