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September 21, 2007

A.G. Files Four Solid Waste Disposal Lawsuits

Suits are filed in Adams, Dickinson, Dubuque and Pottawattamie Counties

Attorney General Tom Miller filed four lawsuits Thursday and Friday to enforce Iowa's solid waste disposal regulations. The actions were filed in Adams, Dickinson, Dubuque and Pottawattamie counties.

The lawsuits all ask the district court to order cleanup, assess civil penalties, and prohibit further violations. In each case, the lawsuits allege repeated violations despite continued attempts by the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources to enforce environmental regulations.

“The suits seek to enforce state environmental laws and regulations,” Miller said. “These are basic rules designed to protect our land, air and water, and people’s health and safety.”

State v. Environmental Recycling Co., Inc., Dwight Oglesbee, and Kathryn Oglesbee (filed 9-20-07 in Adams County).

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants own and operate a recycling operation in Brooks in rural Adams County where they have engaged in or allowed open dumping, open burning, and burial of 55-gallon drums that have leaked hazardous wastes, including waste oil, lead, benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylene.

The suit alleges that groundwater monitoring near the defendants' property showed elevated levels of arsenic, barium, cadmium, total chromium and lead. The defendants submitted a compliance plan to the DNR in response to allegations of violations, but the plan was rejected by the DNR as incomplete and lacking an appropriate cleanup schedule.

State v. Cohrs Construction, Inc., doing business as Cohrs Gravel Pit, and Bernard Cohrs (filed 9-20-07 in Dickinson County).

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants have engaged in open burning of solid waste, including trade wastes and household wastes, at an old gravel pit located in Excelsior Township in rural Dickinson County. The petition further alleges that this open burning occurred despite a prior DNR Administrative Order issued against the defendants in 2003 for similar violations.

State v. Dennis James Sharkey, Jr. (filed 9-20-07 in Dubuque County).

The lawsuit alleges that in 2006 Dennis James Sharkey, Jr., engaged in open burning of solid waste at 17375 Route 52 North, Durango, Iowa, near Dubuque. It alleges that the incident was one more in a string of open burning violations by Sharkey dating back to 1971, which had been addressed by the DNR and its predecessor agencies, and by the Dubuque County Sheriff and County Attorney. This is the first referral of Sharkey to the Attorney General for judicial enforcement.

State v. Clifford Yentes, and Clifford Yentes Trust (filed 9-21-07 in Pottawattamie County).

The lawsuit alleges that Clifford Yentes and the Clifford Yentes Trust allowed open dumping of solid waste at two properties located at 19544 Monument Road and 1320 Avenue J, Council Bluffs, Iowa. The suit alleges that there is a six-story high pile of illegally-dumped solid waste at the 19544 Monument Road property. The pile consists of rubble and miscellaneous solid waste, including waste tires, appliances, furniture, shingles, insulation, railroad ties, and various construction and demolition wastes. The suit alleges that Yentes acknowledges he received payment to allow parties to dump at the site.

The suit alleges that at the Avenue J site there is garbage scattered throughout the property as well as lead acid batteries on the ground, uncovered buckets of waste oil, scattered junk metal and equipment, and what appears to be an abandoned underground storage tank.

The lawsuit is the second filed by the Attorney General against Yentes. In the prior action in 1994, Yentes agreed to pay a $5000 civil penalty and consented to a permanent injunction prohibiting further violations.

The Attorney General’s Office also filed an application Friday asking the Court to find Yentes in contempt of court for violating the prior injunction.

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