AG Gansler: Talbot County Man Convicted of Illegal Dumping and Burning
Site was used to dispose of debris from Chesapeake Lawn and Garden Services
Baltimore, MD (July 22, 2014) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today announced a multi-count conviction in an air pollution trial related to a notorious illegal open dump and the illegal burning of toxic debris in Talbot County. Douglas W. Endzel, of Easton, was found guilty on five counts of illegal open burning, two counts of creating dangerous air pollution and two counts of operating an illegal open dump. Retired Talbot County Circuit Court Judge Broughton Earnest sentenced Endzel to 90 days incarceration, all of which was suspended. Endzel was placed on probation for one year, ordered to pay $5,545 in fines and costs, and required to complete 100 hours of community service.
"Illegal dumping and burning puts the health and welfare of anyone who lives nearby at serious risk," said Attorney General Gansler. "These laws and regulations are on the books to protect our health, our environment and our communities."
The charges arose from incidents at a property owned by the defendant's parents on Backtown Road in Trappe. Neighbors and other witnesses testified to ongoing problems with illegal dumping and burning, which started with the defendant's father and continued as the defendant began operating his business, Chesapeake Lawn and Garden Services, at the site.
On January 12, 2013, neighbors on both sides of the property noted a massive fire with flames estimated to be 40 feet high. Heavy smoke and the smell of burning plastic wafted into nearby homes to such an extent that one neighbor sent her asthmatic young daughter to stay at her grandmother's house. This happened on multiple occasions. The next day, witnesses say nickel-sized soot and ash coated everything in the neighborhood like a "blanket of snow." The fire smoldered for a week and on February 10, another very large fire was reported at the site, again creating unhealthy conditions for neighboring residents.
Inspectors from the Talbot County Department of Environmental Health and investigators from the Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Unit responded to the site numerous times. They found multiple burn piles described as 20 feet wide by 40 feet long and 12 feet high, consisting of timber, brush, construction debris, concrete rubble, large pieces of plastic, carpeting, paint cans and other trash.
A former state trooper testified that he had a conversation in 2009 with Endzel during an investigation of Endzel's father. At that time, the officer told the younger Endzel that he and his father could not burn materials piled on the property and that any such burn would have to be permitted through the health department. Endzel acknowledged that he needed to have valid permits to burn or take prohibited materials to an approved landfill. Talbot County inspectors further stated that dumping and burning debris piles of this type on the property in question would not have been permitted.
During the investigation, Endzel repeatedly admitted being responsible for piling the debris on the site and setting a number of the fires.
Improper open burning of waste products releases toxic pollutants into the air, creating a risk of health problems for anyone in the area. Such pollutants can cause damage to lungs, the nervous system, kidneys and the liver, and can aggravate cancer, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other diseases and conditions. Illegal open dumping also threatens surface and drinking water and provides a breeding ground for rats and mosquitoes, in addition to creating a general safety hazard.
All residents need to contact their local environmental health department and be aware of state laws and regulations prior to conducting any burning or accumulation of waste materials, whether they are natural or man-made.
The Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Unit handled the prosecution at the request of the Talbot County Department of Environmental Health. In making the announcement, Attorney General Gansler thanked Assistant Attorney General Michelle Barnes, Environmental Crimes Investigator Bill Schmidt, and Anne Morse and Dave Russ of the Talbot County Department of Environmental Health for their work on the case.