TILLAMOOK - Tillamook County has been cited by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for four Class A violations of its solid waste disposal permit and state regulations at its waste transfer station, operated by Don G. Averill Recycling, Inc.
The violations center around Averill's acceptance of wrecked vehicles and contamination of the site from leaking fluids, a permit violation at the site where solid waste is collected and then trucked to a disposal site in the Willamette Valley.
Following official notification of the preliminary enforcement notice (PEN) early this month from DEQ, the county is awaiting word on whether a noncompliance notice, penalties or fines will follow.
The citation stems from a Sept. 25 routine inspection of the transfer station, and DEQ informed the county of its concerns the following day.
The county received DEQ's inspection report Oct. 2.
Pat Oakes, who was then interim Public Works director, wrote to Averill in early October that "responsibility for operating within the DEQ permit and any violations that occur by noncompliance of permit requirements are the liability of Don G. Averill Recycling, Inc."
However, he said, "we believe your quick response and willingness to take appropriate action to clean up the site are quite appropriate and hopefully has demonstrated good faith to DEQ that Tillamook County and Don G. Averill Recycling are working to resolve the issues at hand."
That is certainly what's happening, according to Averill, who declined to comment at length.
However, he noted the lack of facilities in the county to dispose of wrecked and abandoned vehicles, and said he has been working with the Port of Tilla-mook Bay to hopefully secure a site for this purpose at the port's industrial park.
The issue will likely be discussed at the next port board meeting according to Port Commissioner Jerry Dove.
County Commissioner Mark Labhart said he, port officials, Averill and others met late last month to "finalize a plan for setting up a facility to handle cars at the Port of Tillamook Bay Industrial Park, since there is no licensed facility in the county now that Merrill's (wrecking yard in Garibaldi) is shut down. I'm optimistic that the port and Don Averill will have something in place soon for the various agency permitting processes that may have to occur."
An auto wrecking yard is allowed as a conditional use (requiring an application through Community Development) in the port's M-1 General Industrial zone, according to Bill Campbell, Community Development director.
He told Labhart that the port has the space for such an operation and with some extension of rails, the scrap metal could be shipped by the port's railroad, which connects with Willamette and Pacific, the carrier serving the Schnitzer Steel Mill in McMinnville.
Mikell O'Mealy of DEQ acknowledged in an e-mail the "immediate corrective actions that the county has taken to fix the situation," adding that DEQ's Enforcement Office "will determine the amount of the penalty, and the county's cooperativeness and proactive efforts to address the problem will be taken into account."
Kathy Schwink, county Solid Waste coordinator, said Averill immediately began "taking procactive (cleanup) actions" with Shaw Environmental, Inc., of Portland. She said DEQ "approved verbally that they will allow Shaw to oversight the cleanup."
Schwinck said anything coming into the transfer station should have fluids already extracted, and that there shouldn't be wrecking or dismantling of vehicles at the transfer station, and that the county was unaware of the activity.
She was optimistic that "there will be a major consideration to waive or reduce fines because of our proactive approach." It's a good thing that this is being dealt with, she said, adding that the county has a "good working relationship with DEQ."
Schwinck noted that, following the site inspection, it seemed there was a potential for 12 different violations, but that these had actually been reduced to four.
In its Nov. 3 PEN letter, DEQ Senior Hydrologist Rodney Weick recognized the county's quick response in correcting "the conditions observed during the site inspection, including ceasing to accept abandoned or wrecked automobiles."
In a telephone interview, he added, "They (the county and Averill) have jumped on it."
He also said Averill "has retained a consulting firm to investigate and clean up the contamination caused by the unauthorized activities at the facility, and has initiated cleanup actions to remove the contamination ."
The four areas of Class A violations cited by DEQ include:
Accepting wrecked and abandoned autos in violation of state law relating to disposal of prohibited hazardous wastes.
This noted the spilling of oil and other hazardous substances on the ground and "acceptance of abandoned or broken yard maintenance equipment, such as gas-powered lawn mowers that have released stored gasoline in their tanks to the environment."
Operating a "disposal site without first obtaining a registration or permit. The operator of the transfer station knowingly accepted abandoned and/or wrecked vehicles, which is not allowed under the county's permit."
Accepting "wastes for disposal in a permitted solid waste unit or facility that has been expanded in an area or capacity without first submitting plans to the Department (DEQ) or obtaining department approval.
This noted a "failure to conduct recycling in a controlled and orderly manner, citing "unsorted piles of mixed recyclables and materials containing hazardous substances." It also mentioned "acceptance and improper storage" of such things as fluids from autos and machines leaking fluids, as well as acceptance of paint cans without verification that the cans were either empty or contained only hardened paint.
Deviating from a DEQ-approved facility plan "which results in a safety hazard, public health hazard ."
This section pointed out storage containers outside the covered shed where substances were leaking to and staining the ground surface; that "nonporous surface gradient directs runoff from these leaky open bins to a catch basin that has a heavy oily sheen, which may eventually discharge to waters ."
DEQ also observed that the franchise agreement for the site calls for hazardous waste to be "stored in a leak-proof container which is inaccessible to the public."
However, Weick's PEN statement, in outlining its requested corrective actions, reiterated that the county has "already addressed most of these violation corrective actions."
As for any civil penalty assessment, Weick said, "the department will take into consideration your timely responsiveness, including the corrective actions you have already implemented."