AMITE — Saying they felt blindsided by news at their June 13 meeting that the state Department of Environmental Quality issued a compliance order and notice of potential penalty involving the parish-run landfill, Tangipahoa Parish Council members voted unanimously Thursday night to get answers.
“I’m just stunned,” said Councilman Ronnie Bankston, who echoed the comments of several council members.
The Parish Council received the compliance order on June 12 requiring the parish to address a number of problems with how they have been using shredded waste tires at their landfill and a nearby firing range. Council members said they weren’t told about the concerns and basically had to discover it through news reports.
As a result, the council held a special meeting Thursday to pass two resolutions asking the parish president and administration for any correspondence between the parish and DEQ about the landfill and to get answers for a list of questions from individual council members.
“If you read these documents, this has been going on for quite a long time,” said David Vial, council chairman.
The council asked for the information to be supplied by July 30.
Parish President Gordon Burgess was not at Thursday’s meeting.
At issue are the shredded tires the parish was approved to use at the landfill for certain projects through DEQ’s waste tire program.
The waste tire program is funded by the fee people pay when they get new tires on their vehicles. Those used tires are picked up by businesses that shred the tires for reuse. At the Tangipahoa Parish landfill, those approved projects included road bases, levee fill and as part of the daily landfill cover.
The parish’s compliance order comes from several DEQ inspections of the Tangipahoa Regional Solid Waste Facility and the Tangipahoa Parish Firing Range. According to the compliance order, inspectors found a large amount of shredded tires stored at the firing range, which was not approved by DEQ, even though the parish reported the tires were delivered to the landfill.
In addition, DEQ says the parish had been told back in 2006 that it wasn’t allowed to stockpile shredded tires in anticipation of approved projects. However, inspectors found stockpiles of material even though there are no current projects approved.
“We may have to remove these tires according to DEQ,” said Councilman Greg Varnado.
Inspectors also found shredded waste tires buried or partially buried near and around a firing range berm. Although using the waste tires for construction of the firing range berm was approved, burying the material around the berm was not preapproved by DEQ.
Tangipahoa Parish government was told to stop stockpiling any waste tire material, remove what has been stockpiled within 60 days and provide documentation to DEQ about where waste tire material has been put besides the approved firing range levees.
Although the parish initially had until Aug. 12 to respond to DEQ, the parish has requested an extension as well as a hearing with DEQ officials.
Another issue included in DEQ’s compliance order is that despite getting DEQ notification in 2006 that the parish needed to file monthly reports on waste tire activity, not one report was filed.
“How is it, for eight years, you didn’t turn in a monthly report?” asked Councilman Carlo Bruno. “Who dropped the ball? Who was not sending out the report?”
At the council’s July 13 meeting, the council voted to hire Beau James Brock, of the Manasseh, Gill, Knipe & Belanger Law Firm of Baton Rouge. Brock, who has worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and at DEQ, has experience with environmental compliance issues.
Brock explained that compliance orders are administrative issues, not court actions, and are meant to get a problem fixed instead of punishing a parish with fines. The best course of action, he said, is to give DEQ whatever information it requires and, if mistakes were made, to fix them.
Meetings already have been set up with DEQ to discuss the compliance order, he said.
In a separate but related action, DEQ filed a lawsuit against a tire shredder on June 12 alleging the business delivered more shredded tires to the parish than was approved between 2008 and 2013. Tangipahoa Parish is not named in that lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges DEQ overpaid the company $3.4 million. EIR owner Buddy Dupuy has disputed those claims and said all of the tires delivered to the Tangipahoa landfill are, or will be, used in approved projects.
Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.