Clean Harbors faces fines for burn violationa, says LDFQ

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

The Clean Harbors Hazardous Waste Disposal Facility near Colfax faces potential huge fines for burn pan violations when they exceeded their five minute permitted time burn frame. Clean Harbors had air quality permits to burn in open air pans hazardous waste material for five minutes; however, in operations between October 1, 2016 and January 12, 2017, Clean Harbors exceeded their permit allowances by 50 minutes on numerous occasions.

On February 7, 2017, Celena J. Cage, Administrator, Enforcement Division of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LADEQ) issued a Consolidated Compliance Order & Notice of Potential Penalty Enforcement Tracking No. AE-CN-17-00062 Agency Interest No. 32096 to Clean Harbors Colfax. Jerry McPheron is the site manager for Clean Harbors Colfax.

On October 27, 2016, the LADEQ issued Consolidated Order and Notice of Potential Penalty (CONOPP) to Clean Harbors based on site inspections during October 10-19. Clean Harbors submitted a request for an adjudicatory hearing on Nov. 23, 2016. That hearing took place on December 20, 2016.

On or about January 9 and January 17, 2017, an unannounced air quality inspection of the facilities was conducted based on a citizen's compliant was conducted. The following violations of the Air Quality regulations were noted by the DEQ inspectors: Eight instances of the incineration of waste firework explosives were found from the Clean Harbors operation logs.

The permitted Air Quality time of the incineration was for five minutes. However in each of the eight instances recorded the actual burn time of the waste fireworks explosive was 50 minutes each, a clear violation of the Air Quality permit held by Clean Harbors. Each failure to comply with the five (5) minute burn/denotation permit limit according to the order issued by the DEQ Compliance officer is a violation of Specific Requirement 2.5 of Minor Sources Permit No. 1120-00010-04AA, LAC 33:III.501.C.4, and La R.S. 30:2057(A)(2).

As I try to write the specifics of the Clean Harbors alleged violations by the LADEQ, I am truly amazed at all the buearacratic gobbled-de-gook with these violation numbers. It would certainly take a mathematician to keep up with the numbers and a Yale lawyer to understand what they mean.

The DEQ Compliance Order also said: "The Respondent (Clean Harbors Colfax) failed to include all required components in the Treated Waste Annual Reports. Specifically, the total quantities of each treated waste for the preceding year were not included in the annual reports. Insufficient reports were submitted for the 2012-2015 calendar years. The Compliance Order instructed Clean Harbors to submit this info to the LA DEQ within 30 days.

The LA DEQ Compliance Order indicates the maximum penalty for these violations is a fine up to $50,000 per day. The Compliance Order also states that the Department is required by La Revised Statute 30:2025 (3)(a) to consider the gross revenue of the Respondent (Clean Harbors Colfax) and the monetary benefits of noncompliance to determine whether a penalty will be assessed and the amount of such a penalty.

The toxin situation at Clean Harbors Colfax is apparently nothing new for the surrounding residents. In late 2015 and early 2016, Clean Harbors was going through a Public Comment period on their toxic waste permit applications. Their goal was for a permit modification so that it could more than triple the amount of toxic waste that could openly be burned at the facility in Colfax. That permit modification would have allowed Clean Harbors the authorization to burn two million pounds of hazardous waste a year.

It seems that the piney woods of north Louisiana is in the crosshairs of hazardous waste activities nationawide. Not only is the Clean Harbors Colfax toxic waste scenario a huge safety controversy for the many residents of Grant Parish, but a hundred miles north is the center of another waste disposal operation at Camp Minden.

In a short interview with Dolores Blalock an active participant in the Clean Harbors Colfax Coalition Committee, more information and perspectives became a little clearer: "There is not toxic waste going from Camp Minden to Clean Harbors at this time. The last transfer of hazardous waste was in the summer of 2015. They continue to open burn the poison material here at Colfax because it is a lot cheaper to dispose of it here than transfer it to the Clean Harbors incinerator in El Dorado, Arkansas. And Clean Harbors says that some waste material cannot be put into an incinerator."

"The situation at Camp Minden is growing more controversial by the day. The company that now has a contract at Camp Minden is supposed to expire in April of this year. However, the company operating the burn unit for M6 hazardous munitions waste wants to keep the burn unit in operation and make it a permanent explosive toxic waste dump for the whole nation. This will make it a bigger controversy than ever before."

It seems rather unusual that the piney woods of north and central Louisiana would be selected as a hazardous waste disposal site for the entire nation at this time in our history. Stay tuned for more of the little people versus the Goliaths.