AMITE — An attorney retained by the Tangipahoa Parish Council to seek resolution of charges by state environmental officials of misuse and storage of shredded tires at the parish-operated landfill told the council Monday he anticipates the matter can be settled within the next several months.
Beau James Brock, a Baton Rouge lawyer, presented the council with a lengthy report on progress being made in the effort to end the parish’s dispute with DEQ without the parish having to pay potentially heavy fines. Brock said he and his team have assembled many pages of documents on the use of the shredded tires and have shared this information with the state Department of Environmental Quality.
In June, DEQ notified the parish that the landfill, which is located near Independence, was in violation of state-issued permits regarding the use of the shredded material and storage of the tires at the landfill.
DEQ questioned the use of the shredded material at a firing range which has been under construction for many years and remains unfinished. The notification from DEQ includes the threat of fines.
Brock’s Aug. 7 response to DEQ states the parish seeks “to maintain complete transparency and cooperation with DEQ and is providing all the information possible.” He also notes the parish has taken steps to comply with the regulations concerning the construction of the firing range.
His reply concedes the parish failed to obtain written pre-authorization from DEQ on the stabilization of the base on one slope of the firing range. Brock’s findings show DEQ’s original written approval for the firing range project was made June 19, 2008. The document notes that additional meetings and approvals were also entered into after this date, extending and expanding upon the project’s approval at the site. The last written approval for the scope of the firing range project came from DEQ on Oct. 31, 2013.
Brock told the council that negotiations with DEQ have been amicable. He said in an interview that DEQ “does not want to punish taxpayers. … They would rather reach an agreeable settlement for all concerned.”
The shredded tire issue at the landfill prompted a request from Councilman Carlo Bruno that Parish President Gordon Burgess and Director of Finances Jeff McKneely answer 11 questions submitted by the parish council July 23. Bruno said the council received a reply to the questions, but the reply had been prepared by Brock.
“I find this unacceptable,” Bruno said. “I voted against hiring an attorney because I knew that we would get answers from a lawyer and not from the administration. What we got was a lot of legal jargon.”
The first four questions concern the firing range, with the council asking why construction of the range began without council permission. They also asked for documentation concerning DEQ approval for the range and how the tire material was to be used. The list of questions also covers when the parish administration knew about the possible misuse of the shredded tires and why the council was not informed about this impending problem.
The other questions concern communications between the parish and DEQ. The final question asks McKneely to report on how much money the parish has spent on fuel, equipment, dirt and manpower since 2006 on the firing range project.