Indiana officials seek $150,000 fine against VIM
Posted: 12/22/2011 at 1:15 am
By: Tim Vandenack
Valerie Tachtiris, the deputy attorney general handling the case for state environmental officials, proposed the fine during a court date Tuesday. At no time did reps from the wood recycling firm make “any real effort” to meet the terms of the accord, she said.
Ken Will, operator of VIM — sold last July to Soil Solutions — asked that the court reject the proposal and Elkhart Superior Court 1 Judge Evan Roberts, overseeing the matter, said he’d take it under advisement.
VIM “is basically winding itself down and has no ability to pay that type of restitution,” said Will, representing himself at Tuesday’s hearing.
The attorney general’s office and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management filed suit against VIM in December 2009, saying the wood recycler had illegally accepted and stored industrial wood scraps on its grounds. As part of a Dec. 6, 2010, order accepted by both sides, VIM agreed to move the material to an indoor storage facility or process it within 180 days of the date.
The deadline came and went without compliance, however, and Roberts in July found VIM in contempt of court for the failure.
Tachtiris said the pertinent law would permit a fine of up to $25,000 per day over the 180-day span, or $4.5 million. But she proposed a $25,000 fine for each of the six months, arriving at the $150,000 figure.
In his defense, Will said that during the 180-day period in question, he was negotiating the sale of VIM and Soil Solutions officials indicated they wanted the disputed wood waste so it could be recycled. The attorney general’s office has called VIM a potential environmental health threat, though company reps disagreed.
Jason Palin, from IDEM’s office of enforcement in Indianapolis, said Tuesday he had inspected the disputed outdoor wood heap and that it’s been cut in half. It originally measured around 15,000 cubic yards, down from earlier estimates of 60,000 cubic yards, but now totals around 7,500 cubic yards. Soil Solutions reps ought to be able to completely remove it within 90 days, he said.
Roberts set a review hearing for April 26. He expressed hesitancy about issuing a fine, saying the “better course” would be to remove the wood pile.
VIM has been a simmering hot spot of controversy over the years. Neighbors long complained of dust and other emissions from the site, though company reps have denied that it poses a health threat.