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DEQ issues fines over illegal White City dumping site

A Medford man faces nearly $19,000 in environmental fines for allowing an illegal auto-salvage facility at his White City yard, where more than 1,000 tires and close to 85 tons of garbage and dismantled vehicles were amassed, authorities said.

Landowner Allen Surgeon faces the civil penalty as well as a citation for maintaining an illegal waste-tire disposal site at 7990 11th St. He is also accused of storing some ash, roofing materials and other debris in a ditch that drains near the boundary of the state-owned Denman Wildlife Area, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The operator of the facility, identified as Josh Smith, was fined more than $15,000 in a similar civil penalty in September 2013, during a two-year effort to get the site cleaned up and in line with environmental laws, according to the DEQ.

"I was out there last Monday and it's still a mess," said David Esch, the DEQ solid waste specialist who investigated the case. "It's way better than it was, but it's still a mess."

Surgeon just met a Monday afternoon deadline to file a work plan for removal and proper disposal of the items, Esch said.

Surgeon has until March 24 to appeal the $18,845 penalty, of which $4,445 represents the money he allegedly gained for failing to remove the garbage and tires, according to the DEQ. The fine could be recalculated with cleanup costs factored in should the site be cleaned as required by Sept. 9, according to the DEQ order.

Medford attorney Christopher McMillan, who represents Surgeon, declined to comment Monday.

DEQ officials originally were sent to the property based on a complaint in February 2013. Surgeon's civil penalty was based on a Dec. 8 inspection, records show.

Officials found about 47 tons of garbage, including broken furniture, bedding, carpet, rubber and plastics, according to the DEQ order.

They also recorded 37 tons of metal, including dismantled vehicles, vehicle parts and home appliances, the order states. And they found about 1,035 waste tires and 255 gallons of unidentified fluids stored in various containers, according to the order.

Environmental laws forbid the disposal of solid waste anywhere except in a permitted facility, such as a landfill or transfer station. Oregon law allows the storage of up to 100 tires on residential or industrial property without a permit, provided they are properly stored and managed.

It is the second civil penalty DEQ has written for an illegal dump in White City since January, records show.

The owner of a Grants Pass roofing recycling company was fined nearly $50,000 by the DEQ in January for illegally storing asbestos and breaking other environmental laws on a rented yard in the 3500 block of Crater Lake Highway in White City.

Barbara Hedrick, who owns Roof Recovery Project, said she allowed nearly 1,500 cubic yards of roofing material to illegally accumulate outside for about 18 months without realizing she was breaking any laws.

One of eight samples of material tested positive for asbestos, a respiratory hazard proven to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, according to the DEQ.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.