AMITE — The Tangipahoa Parish Council, on a split vote following sometimes contentions discussion, agreed Monday to hire an attorney in the matter involving the use of shredded tire material at the parish landfill.
Parish President Gordon Burgess was notified by state Department of Environmental Quality on June 12 that the parish could be found liable for the misapplication of the recycled tire material at a firing range under construction at the landfill and on berms and levees at the site.
The DEQ letter states the parish faces fines of up to $27,500 for each day of violation since Aug. 15, 2004, and civil penalties of up to $32,500 for each day of violation.
Parish Finance Director Jeff McKneely said the parish has until Aug. 12 to respond to DEQ and that legal assistance is needed to determine if the parish was properly following permits it obtained from DEQ for use of the tire material. McKneely said personnel at the landfill believed they were using the material properly. He said two interpretations of what the permits allowed are under discussion.
“We believe that we are correct in how we used the materials under the permits we have, but DEQ thinks otherwise. When we meet with DEQ, we send an engineer and they have lawyers. We need a lawyer to talk to their lawyers,” McKneely said.
The council voted 6-4 to retain the services of attorney Beau James Brock of the Manasseh, Gill, Knipe & Belanger Law Firm of Baton Rouge. McKneely said Brock had been recommended by the Louisiana Police Jury Association because of his knowledge of cases involving DEQ.
Several council members questioned McKneely about the use of the tire material and Councilman Nicky Muscarello zeroed in on why a firing range was being built at the landfill. Muscarello said the council had never given the Parish President’s Office permission to build a firing range at the landfill and repeatedly asked McKneely who had authorized the range. McKneely said that he did not know how the firing range came to be built, but it is still under construction.
In an attempt to simplify issues involved with the DEQ charges, McKneely said three points are in contention: use of the shredded tires at the range, use of the same materials on the range’s berm and on some levees, and storage of shredded tire material at the landfill site.
Asked how much of the material had been used at the range thus far, McKneely said about 648,000 pounds. Responding to a question from Councilman Carlo Bruno, McKneely said that 186 million pounds of the shredded tires are now being stored on the site.
McKneely explained that DEQ authorizes contractors to deliver the recycled tire material to landfill sites for use as fill with dirt. DEQ supports the tire recycling program from the $2 fee that consumers pay when they buy new tires and turn in their old tires.
“It’s like getting free dirt,” McKneely said, “… and we use an unbelievable amount of dirt. We are permitted to use the tire material in different ratios, depending of what application is being used. We use the shredded tires on roads, levees and in other areas at the landfill and then cover it with dirt.”
McKneely said he believes the contractor who hauls the shredded tire material is being sued by DEQ in a separate case. Neither McKneely nor members of the council could name the contractor.
McKneely said Tangipahoa Parish has been using the recycled tire material since 1996 and has done so with DEQ approval.
Muscarello said he couldn’t vote to hire an attorney because he still doesn’t know enough about the case and he called for the measure to be tabled. His motion was superseded by a substitute motion to hire the attorney and that’s when the measure passed.
Voting for the measure were Councilmen Trent Forrest, Bobby Cortez, Harry Lavine, David Vial, Louis Joseph and Lionel Wells. Voting against were Muscarello, Bruno, Greg Varnado and Ronnie Bankston.