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Lin-Cor Environmental faces off against State of Maine
By Donna Currie E-mail the author

Wood Fuel Plant

Linda Corbin at Lin-Cor Environmental is not unfamiliar with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Earlier this year, Lin-Cor was charged with a variety of offenses, including unlicensed discharge of hazardous matter and hazardous waste, unlicensed operation of a hazardous-waste storage facility, unlicensed transportation of hazardous waste, violation of hazardous waste management rules and violation of oil discharge prevention rules.

The charges span several years and include a variety of locations in Maine. The state is looking for reimbursement of approximately $4,500 for cleaning up spills. The eight charges filed in York County Superior Court carry fines of $100 to $25,000 per day.

From those charges, it would seem that Lin-Cor is dealing with some mighty nasty substances, but “we’re not dealing with nuclear wastes,” Corbin said. Lin-Cor is merely a mobile car crusher company and the wastes sited are the leftovers from that operation, including gasoline and other auto fluids.

Corbin said that her operation is no different from many others operating in Maine and elsewhere, and although she also works in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, she has not had any complaints from those states. She also noted that she was trying to do things the right way, and that she was recycling the fluids and “not just dumping it onto the ground.”

As a result of those charges, Corbin took a hard look at the laws regulating her industry, and found that the laws did not specify who is responsible for the disposal of hazardous wastes from automobiles.

Corbin’s contention was that since the auto salvage yards received the bulk of the profits from the cars she crushed for them, the salvage yards should be responsible for the waste products left behind.

Dennis Harrish, the assistant attorney general prosecuting Lin-Cor’s case said that the car-crushing companies are not licensed by the state, and that auto salvage yards are regulated at the municipal level, so the industry as a whole is not well-regulated.

Corbin also noted that some of the existing legislation made it more difficult to properly recycle. Cracked batteries, for instance, would cost an average of $95 each to properly dispose of under existing laws, according to Corbin. She said that although no one would admit to improperly disposing of cracked batteries, she doubted that anyone could show records of paying for disposal. Giving auto salvage yards and car crushers a way to safely and legally store and transport the batteries to battery recyclers would result in better compliance.

Corbin talked to several legislators before Senator Richard Nass (R-Acton) agreed to introduce new legislation that would clarify responsibilities. Corbin noted that her efforts were not immediately embraced by the area auto salvage yards, but she explained to them, “This will keep them from doing to you what they did to me.”

Deborah Garrett at the Maine DEP provided the text of the law and its amendments enacted on May 26. This law regulates the operating standards for junkyards, automobile graveyards and automobile recycling businesses in Maine.

Garrett stated, “It requires that logs be maintained of all motor vehicles handled by the facility. It requires that all fluids, refrigerant, batteries and mercury switches be removed from motor vehicles that are not operable, appliances and other items within 180 days of acquisition by a junkyard, automobile graveyard or automobile recycling business.”

In addition, “Items acquired prior to October 1, 2005, however, must have fluids, refrigerant, batteries and mercury switches removed by January 1, 2007. It requires that storage, recycling or disposal of materials comply with federal and state laws. It requires that all fluids, refrigerant, batteries and mercury switches be removed before crushing or shredding.

“It also provides that a municipality or county may reject an application for an automobile graveyard or automobile recycling business if the applicant has not demonstrated that certain provisions regarding storm water management have been complied with.”

Garrett confirmed that Corbin was the one who put the legal wheels into motion: “The bill originated with a constituent (a car crushing operation) who was upset that she was the subject of an enforcement action because of improper storage and handling of fluids from cars they had crushed.”

When asked about estimated costs to recyclers of $3 per gallon for gasoline and $95 per battery for proper recycling, Garrett said, “As I remember some of the numbers came from the recyclers and they were challenged in terms of accuracy. ‘Fees’ are not part of the bill; the argument was about how much it would ‘cost’ the industry to comply, and those estimates varied. The state gets nothing out of this other than reduced likelihood of spills and soil/water contamination.”

Now that the bill has become law, Corbin noted that while she was surprised that the law was actually passed, and in a short time, she is not completely satisfied with the results as some of the language got changed in the process. She was told that she should “be happy with what she got,” and she admits that this is a good start. She also commented that this could spur other states to pass similar laws, so it is worth watching.

Negotiations between Lin-Cor and the state regarding the fines imposed are in process, and no fines had been paid as of press time. Neither Corbin nor her lawyer wished to comment on those ongoing negotiations at this time.

The Maine bill can be found here.

Garrett cautioned that “The law that will take effect is the amendment referenced on this page (CA- S-186). The original proposal was changed in committee.”

 

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