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MAX Environmental fined $70K by state for landfill's noxious odors

Joe Napsha
| Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
Max Environmental near Yukon. on Aug 17, 2015.
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Max Environmental near Yukon. on Aug 17, 2015.

The operator of the Yukon landfill that treats industrial and hazardous waste and stores it on-site has been slapped with a $70,000 fine by the state for allowing noxious odors to blow onto neighboring properties, according to an agreement that outlines what the company must do to solve the problem.

The consent decree MAX Environmental Technologies Inc. of Upper St. Clair reached with the Department of Environmental Protection on Aug. 6 settles the state's claims for civil penalties for the company violating its operating permit by failing to prevent the odors drifting outside the plant and correcting those problems.

MAX Environmental also failed to prevent materials trucked out of the plant from tracking onto Spring Street, which abuts its property, according to the consent decree reached to avoid lawsuits.

MAX made an $8,750 payment to the state on Aug. 4 and must make seven similar payments between October and April 2017.

The consent decree was reached after the department cited MAX Environmental for odor violations in August 2013, April 2014 and September 2014. The agency said its inspectors reported smelling odors that drifted outside MAX Environmental's 159-acre property in South Huntingdon during 41 inspections of the plant and surrounding area between July 2013 and March 25, 2015.

The department has received “ongoing complaints” about bad odors from the landfill, so “we are dealing with a situation where we are trying to eliminate the odor problem,” said John Poister, a spokesman for the DEP in Pittsburgh.

Carl Spadaro, environmental manager for MAX Environmental, said in a statement Monday that the company decided to enter into the consent agreement and pay the fine “rather than engage in prolonged litigation.”

The state notified the company in March it was planning to assess a penalty.

“It has taken a few months to ensure an accurate assessment of the allegations, facts and corrective measures,” Spadaro said.

Spadaro defended the company's operations in the statement, saying it has “diligently addressed odor nuisance complaints” by modifying operations at its Yukon plant, which treats industrial waste from a variety of sources, including steel mills and natural gas drilling operations.

“The allegations made by DEP in the consent order and agreement are DEP's findings. We were not able to substantiate these allegations with our own inspections. This has been MAX's position during the township complaint hearings as well as with DEP,” Spadaro said.

Spadaro stated in a hearing last October when South Huntingdon cited MAX for allowing dust and odors to flow onto Spring Street residences that the odors have not come from the plant. Westmoreland County Senior Judge William Ober fined the company $10,000 in May for permitting noxious odors and dust to blow on neighboring properties for five months in 2014.

In the consent decree, MAX agreed the complaints were accurate and MAX would not challenge the accuracy or validity of the findings.

The state has required that MAX Environmental daily cover the surface of all the waste dumped at the landfill over the previous 24 hours with soil, tarps or other approved materials. If off-site odors continue, the state will require that the entire landfill, except for an active disposal area not to exceed three acres, be covered.

Township Supervisor Mel Cornell, a frequent critic of MAX Environmental's operations, said Monday that he does not believe the state's plans for correcting the problem will solve the problem.

“That's not going to help the situation. It just doesn't stink in that one area where they are working. It depends on the weather, what they dig up and which way the wind is blowing,” Cornell said.

The problem with residual materials falling off trucks onto Spring Street is not too bad, unless it rains and the materials from the trucks turn into mud.

The state has scheduled a public hearing from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Turkeytown Fire Hall, Route 31, South Huntingdon, to discuss and take testimony on MAX Environmental's request to raise the elevation of its active landfill by 40 feet, thereby increasing its life span by four years.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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