[StBernard] State rebukes SDT over trash facility
westley at da-parish.com
Sat Nov 8 10:23:30 EST 2008
State rebukes SDT over trash facility
DEQ also reprimands St. Bernard
Saturday, November 08, 2008
By Chris Kirkham
St. Bernard bureau
SDT Waste & Debris has been cited with numerous environmental violations
alleging it didn't properly contain waste and allowed contaminated water to
fester at a St. Bernard Parish garbage transfer site that Chalmette native
Sidney Torres IV has operated since last year.
The state Department of Environmental Quality is also citing St. Bernard
Parish, saying it allowed SDT and a waste contractor hired by the parish
Sheriff's Office to dump portable toilet waste into the parish's sewer
system without proper authorization.
The Paris Road garbage transfer site under DEQ's scrutiny is the same
facility that has been the subject of a controversy involving sharp
increases in garbage and debris costs billed to the parish by SDT during the
past 1 1/2 years.
DEQ has ordered SDT to report back within 30 days with plans to address the
violations, which include letting black liquid waste leak out of the garbage
and into ponds on the site. The company must also restrict all garbage to a
designated concrete slab. Photographs from DEQ showed piles of debris and
household waste scattered hundreds of feet from the collection point.
Because the Chalmette SDT site is a garbage transfer facility, and not a
landfill, the garbage is required to have mimimal impact.
--- Garbage on ground ---
"It was allowed to go into the ground in that facility, which at a
non-processing transfer station is a violation," said Roselle Foote, an
environmental scientist supervisor in DEQ's enforcement division. "There are
regulations that require the waste not to get on the ground."
Foote said the violations at the site are "not an imminent threat" to the
surrounding area. Photos shot by DEQ show some of the murky garbage runoff
pooling near the fence line, less than a football field away from a parish
drainage ditch along Paris Road.
In total, the order noted six separate violations of Louisiana law at the
Torres said Friday he will request a hearing to discuss the violations and
the measures he has taken to address any problems.
"I want to comply," Torres said. "If there's something we don't know about,
or need to do . . . we do it. We do it right away and we don't ignore it."
DEQ started inspecting the site in August, after receiving complaints about
towering piles of garbage. Notes from the initial inspections found that
some garbage had been left at the transfer site overnight, a violation of
state environmental law. One photo caption showing water near the waste pile
noted, "The liquid in the pool was black, appeared to be septic, and had a
distinct 'landfill' odor."
--- Remedial actions noted ---
The DEQ order from this week notes that SDT has taken steps to address
several of the violations, such as bringing in trucks to dispose of the
liquid pools and carting off all garbage at the end of the day.
Officials in DEQ's enforcement division will decide in upcoming weeks
whether to pursue penalties against SDT. Noncompliance can be subject to
fines of up to $32,500 a day for each violation, even if the offender has
since corrected the problem.
Torres said he doesn't dispute the problems found at the site during initial
inspections, saying "some of that has to do with being new in the business
and not knowing some of the guidelines."
But he said the controversy has been generated by opponents of his efforts
to build a $2 million transfer station in the parish, six blocks up Paris
Road from his current site.
After concerns about mounting landfill costs billed to the parish by SDT,
Parish President Craig Taffaro ordered Torres this week to halt all garbage
and debris coming into the transfer site except that generated by St.
Bernard residents. Until this week, SDT was allowed to bring in garbage and
debris from other parishes to the transfer site.
--- Questions on outside debris ---
Questions about how much outside debris was mixed in with St. Bernard's
garbage led to the closing.
DEQ's enforcement division will also consider whether to seek penalties
against St. Bernard Parish for allowing portable toilet waste into its
Anyone operating a wastewater discharge plant must note in its application
to DEQ whether waste from outside the system will be deposited. In St.
Bernard's most recent application, submitted in June, nothing is mentioned.
Jeff Dauzat, an environmental scientist with DEQ who is investigating the
matter, said fines are unlikely in such a scenario.
"It's being treated and processed properly. What we have here is kind of a
paperwork problem," he said. "In the big picture, this is no significant
Taffaro said he was unaware that SDT was depositing human waste into the
sewage system, although Torres presented an August 2007 letter from Linda
Daly, now the parish public works director, that authorized him to dump the
waste for 10 cents a gallon. Torres was ordered to stop dumping waste into
the sewage system last week.
Because of a glitch in the billing system, the parish never sent invoices to
Torres until this week, Taffaro said. A contractor hired by the St. Bernard
Sheriff's Office also was dumping waste from trailers into the system at no
Taffaro said the parish submitted an amended wastewater treatment
application Friday, noting the Sheriff's Office discharge. He said SDT has
not asked for permission to continue dumping into the system.
"It just sort of underscores the need to tighten up controls on all ends,"
Taffaro said. "The long and short of it is we have to know what's going on
in our system, and that's certainly what we'll make sure happens."
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