AG Gansler Obtains Guilty Plea for Illegal Burning in Somerset County
Local volunteer fire department participated
MD ( Oct. 12, 2011) - Two Somerset County residents and a local fire company have been convicted of unlawful burning, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced today. Ryan Miller, 28, of Princess Anne, James (‘Jamie”) Taylor, 34, of Westover, and the Fairmount Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., located in Westover, were convicted under the Environment Article of the Maryland Annotated Code for violating restrictions on open air burning.
“Marylanders expect and deserve to be protected from the threat of careless open burning, which can release toxic chemicals into the air,” said Attorney General Gansler. “The permitting process protects residents from such environmental hazards and there will be consequences if it is not respected.”
Each defendant pled guilty to the charge filed against them in the District Court for Somerset County and each was ordered to pay a fine of $2,000 to the Maryland Clean Air Fund. Additionally, Mr. Miller was ordered to perform 30 hours of community service.
In late 2010, Mr. Miller wanted to demolish a property he owned on Fairmount Road in Westover. Mr. Miller spoke with the Fairmount Volunteer Fire Department, which requested a controlled burn of the house for training purposes. Somerset County officials told Mr. Miller that he could not be issued a permit for the burn and the debris would have to be taken to a landfill. Representatives of the county permitting department also notified Mr. Taylor, Assistant Fire Chief for the Fairmount Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., that no permit could be issued on the Fairmount Road property and that the debris could not be burned. Nonetheless, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Miller immediately arranged and conducted a burn on the property on or about December 10, 2010. Mr. Taylor told investigators from the Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Unit that the fire department never sought open air burning permits, despite knowing they were required.
Following the investigation, all three defendants were charged with the criminal violation of conducting an open fire without a permit, which carries maximum penalties of one year in jail and a $25,000 fine.
Burning construction debris or any housing material is illegal without a permit. When construction or demolition materials are burned, dangerous chemicals are released into the environment. Items like insulation, carpets, pip, asphalt shingles, linoleum and other materials found in construction debris release multiple toxins into the air. These pollutants can cause health problems for anyone nearby and can include damage to lungs, and aggravation of diseases and conditions, such as asthma and bronchitis.
The ash from a construction site burn is also a problem as it is likely to contain toxic substances that may be a threat to 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.
In making the announcement, Attorney General Gansler thanked Michelle Barnes, Chief of the OAG Environmental Crimes Unit and Chief Investigator Dave Williams for their work on the case.