AG Gansler: Talbot County Building Supplies Company and Owner Plead Guilty to Multiple Environmental Violations
Charges stem from Cordova illegal solid waste dump site, open burning
Baltimore, MD ( Dec. 5, 2012) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced today that Purnell A. Shortall and his Talbot County business, Shortall Building Supplies and Hardware, Inc. pleaded guilty to multiple criminal counts of improper solid waste disposal. Mr. Shortall pleaded guilty to conducting open fire burning and maintaining an illegal open dump. The corporation pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal open dumping on the business property at 11523 Cordova Road in Cordova. Dorchester County Circuit Court Judge Brett W. Wilson fined the defendant corporation $10,000 with $5,000 suspended and five years probation. Mr. Shortall was given a six-month suspended sentence, ordered to complete 100 hours of community service, a $15,000 fine with all but $4,000 suspended and five years probation.
"This is a case of blatant disregard for the law and the health of neighboring families," said Attorney General Gansler. "This office will continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute those who put the health and property values of Marylanders at risk."
During the probationary period both defendants are required to cooperate with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) regarding assessment of the substances on the property and clean up according to the Department's instructions. All fines will be paid to the Maryland Clean Air Fund and the Sediment Control Fund.
On-going inspections of the business site of Shortall Building Supplies and Hardware, Inc. had been regularly conducted by MDE. Despite repeated instructions to clean up the site and discontinue open dumping on the property, Shortall continued to accumulate materials on the property. In May 2009, an inspector found continued extensive dumping along the tree line and behind buildings on the property.
Located in the large piles of debris were items such as construction and demolition building materials of all types, including wood, carpet and roofing materials. Also located on site were metals of various types, such as box spring mattress remnants, barrels, tanks and burned tires. On a subsequent visit in December 2010, inspectors found that the solid waste still remained and active burning was taking place at the site. Dark smoke and odors were released from the pile which included vinyl chairs, metal bands, and construction materials. Because of the repeated failure to comply with Maryland regulations of which Shortall was aware, MDE referred the matter to the Office of the Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Unit.
Concerns about unauthorized open burning of this nature are significant because toxic and dangerous chemicals(hydrogen chloride, hydrogen cyanide, sulfur dioxide, dioxin, heavy metals) are released into the environment and can cause sometimes very significant health problems (damage to lungs, nervous system, kidneys and liver) and aggravate existing diseases and conditions(cancer, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema). Illegal open dumps can be a source of rodent and insect infestation that can cause severe illnesses in people. There is significant concern, especially in rural areas, that runoff from illegal dumps can contaminate wells and ground water in the area. Illegal dumps are also a danger because they are susceptible to creating flooding issues as well as fires.
In making the announcement, Attorney General Gansler thanked Michelle Barnes, Chief of the OAG Environmental Crimes Unit and Bill Schmidt, an Investigator with the Office of the Attorney General, for their work on the case. This case was handled in conjunction with the Maryland Department of the Environment.