Attorney General Gansler Obtains Guilty Plea for Illegal Burning
Burning of chicken farm debris in Wicomico Co. posed environmental hazard
MD ( Aug. 30, 2011) - A Wicomico County man has been convicted of a criminal misdemeanor violation regarding unlawful burning, according to Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. Randolph Swift, 59, of Pittsville, was convicted Monday in the District Court for Wicomico County under the Environment Article of the Maryland Annotated Code for violating restrictions on open fire burning.
“Open burning can release any number of toxic chemicals into the air,” said Attorney General Gansler. “As a result, such fires can pose a serious threat to the health and welfare of anyone who lives nearby.”
Following an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Unit, Swift was charged with the criminal violation of conducting an open fire without a permit. The defendant pled guilty and was ordered to pay a fine of $3,000 to the Maryland Department of the Environment's Clean Air Fund.
Swift is a chicken farmer in Wicomico County and has a chicken house on property he owns on Elmer Davis Loop Road. He applied for a burn permit in November 2010 for the burning of a demolished chicken house on the site. Authorities from the Wicomico County Health Department advised Swift that no burn permit could be issued for the debris piles and that the demolished property would have to be taken to a landfill. The fire department received a call in January 2011 advising that there was a pile burning on Swift's property without fire personnel present. Upon responding to the site, the fire chief observed multiple smoldering piles remaining from cremations of the demolished chicken house and contents. Swift did not have a permit for the burning.
Burning construction debris or any housing material is illegal without a permit. When construction or demolition materials are burned - items such as insulation, carpets, asphalt shingles, linoleum and other materials - dangerous chemicals are released into the environment. These pollutants can cause health problems for anyone nearby and can cause damage to lungs, and aggravation of diseases and conditions, including asthma and bronchitis.
The ash from a construction site burn is also a problem as it is likely to contain toxic substances that may threaten the groundwater. Construction and demolition waste should not be burned, but rather disposed of at landfills or other state-approved facilities, where environmental and health risks are minimized. Violations of open burn laws will continue to be pursued as criminal matters through the Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Unit.