Lumber dump that catches fire draws big Ore. fine

Lumber dump that catches fire draws big Ore. fine
Photo provided by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality shows mounds of wood waste looming over the town of Pilot Rock, Ore.
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) - A company that sold a lumber mill in the Eastern Oregon town of Pilot Rock couldn't find anyone to buy the neighboring property - a dump covered with 20 acres of old tree bark and sawdust from decades of milling.

So, eventually, Kinzua Resources LLC just folded up and walked away.

The dump catches fire periodically, and the local volunteer fire department has to put it out, but the company has informed the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality it dissolved in 2011 and has no assets to pay for any of the fines already levied, or to covering the dump with dirt, said Leah Feldon, compliance and enforcement officer for the agency.

To get their attention, the state is taking the unusual step of also holding the company's five principals individually liable for the $790,062 in new fines announced Friday. The fines are the second largest ever levied by the agency, Feldon said.

"Taking action against the company has not been fruitful in terms of compliance," Feldon said. "So we have moved to also name the principals."

DEQ identified them as ATR Services Inc., Gregory M. Demers, Frontier Resources LLC, Edward J. King and Jeffrey D. Demers. They have until Sept. 3 to appeal.

A lawyer for Kinzua did not immediately respond to a phone call for comment.

The bulk of the penalty, $550,000, is based on the amount of economic benefit the company derived by not closing the landfill, the agency said. Another $225,000 is for failing to post a bond to cover the costs of closing the dump.

Kinzua sold the mill in 2009 to Boise Cascade Co., which is still operating it. Meanwhile, the dump has caught fire 19 times over the past three years, the DEQ said.

"It gets pretty hot out there," said Lissa Druback, solid waste manager for the agency. "The wood waste can spontaneously combust."

DEQ fined Kinzua $20,273 in 2011, but the company never paid it, Druback said.

The largest penalty DEQ has ever levied was $1.4 million in 2002 against Cain Petroleum Inc., over a number of leaking underground storage tanks.