AG Gansler: Eastern Shore Developer Pleads Guilty to Environmental Violations
Toxic smoke and fumes from illegal fire caused Easton area residents to suffer
Baltimore, MD ( Nov. 1, 2012) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced today that Kirkley Road Sales, Inc., developer of the Cooke's Hope subdivision in Easton, pled guilty to multiple criminal counts of improper solid waste disposal by open-fire burning and violation of air pollution regulations. The principal owner of Kirkley Road Sales, Inc. is William T. Hunter. The corporation pled guilty during a hearing before Talbot County District Court Judge William H. Adkins III who ordered the defendant corporation to pay a fine of $15,000.
"These blatant and thoughtless violations of the law had an immediate impact on the health, safety and freedoms of nearby residents," said Attorney General Gansler. "Nobody should ever be forced to stay inside their home just to avoid the toxic smoke and fumes discharged from an illegal open fire."
The investigation of the incident revealed that on January 4, 2012, representatives of Kirkley Road Sales, Inc. collected numerous trash and waste items from a local retail store in Queenstown. The manager of the defendant corporation was associated with the retail store and directed company employees to transport the debris to an area inside the Cooke's Hope subdivision where they were doused with kerosene and lit on fire. The burning pile included plastic shelving, display racks and metal shelves, among other items and was approximately five feet high and twenty feet wide. The burn continued for six days, until finally being extinguished on January 10. No permit had been sought or issued, nor would one have been issued, for the burning of such items.
Numerous residents reported being overcome by heavy smoke and the sickening smells of burning plastics and rubber. Complaints from residents included breathing problems and an inability to be outside because of the smoke and fumes during the time of the fire.
Concerns about unauthorized open burning of this nature are significant because toxic and dangerous chemicals are released into the environment (hydrogen chloride, hydrogen cyanide, sulfur dioxide, dioxin, heavy metals). These chemicals can sometimes cause significant health problems (damage to lungs, nervous system, kidneys and liver) and aggravate existing health-related conditions such as cancer, asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.
In announcing the guilty plea, Attorney General Gansler thanked Michelle Barnes, Chief of the OAG Environmental Crimes Unit and Bill Schmidt, OAG Investigator, for their hard work in the case.