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Archive for Thursday, July 22, 2010

City shuts down MagnaGro

The MagnaGro production plant at 600 E. 22nd St. was declared “unfit for human occupancy" on Wednesday, July 21, 2010. City officials condemned the building and said operations won't be allowed to resume at the facility.

The MagnaGro production plant at 600 E. 22nd St. was declared “unfit for human occupancy" on Wednesday, July 21, 2010. City officials condemned the building and said operations won't be allowed to resume at the facility.

July 22, 2010

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MagnaGro shut down after violations

MagnaGro, the business where two employees died earlier this year, was shut down by the city today. It has been disconnected from water and sewer lines. Enlarge video

City inspectors and police officers Wednesday shut down an east Lawrence industrial site after the business operated in violation of city codes for three years.

The production plant for MagnaGro International, 600 E. 22nd St., was declared “unfit for human occupancy,” after city leaders determined it could give the company no more time to comply with a requirement that businesses be connected to water and sewer service.

“We placed a placard on the building today condemning it,” Diane Stoddard, an assistant city manager, said Wednesday afternoon.

Stoddard said operations won’t be allowed to resume at the facility — which was the site of a double fatality industrial accident in April — until it meets city codes. Stoddard said it will not be enough for the business to begin taking steps to comply.

“We believe we’ve already provided a reasonable time period for the business to address this, and at this point the placard will remain in place until the property meets the code provisions,” Stoddard said.

Wednesday’s actions bring to a head a three-year saga between the city and MagnaGro.

City officials disconnected water and sewer service from the building in 2007 as federal agents descended upon the facility as part of an investigation into MagnaGro dumping improper waste into the sewer system. In 2009, the company was convicted of that activity and fined $240,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The city has refused to reconnect the service unless MagnaGro installs a special monitoring device onto its sewage connection. The company has refused to file for the proper permits to install the monitoring device.

But the city had allowed the company, which blends fertilizers and other plant material, to continue operating despite not complying with city code. City officials previously have said they wanted to work with the company, and had seen indications the business wanted to come into compliance.

Pressure to take action, though, increased following an industrial accident in April that killed two MagnaGro employees who were overcome by fumes from a material being mixed at the site. The city was questioned by the Journal-World in June about why the facility was allowed to operate out of compliance with the sewer code. Last week, the Journal-World reported the business had about a dozen fire code violations, including operating without a sprinkler system and improperly storing hazardous materials.

After that discovery, the city set a deadline of Wednesday for the company to comply or take major steps toward compliance.

Stoddard said all signs from the scene Wednesday were that MagnaGro leaders would vacate the building.

“We did receive full cooperation from the business owner who had informed the employees in advance of our arrival,” Stoddard said.

An attempt to reach MagnaGro manager Ray Sawyer for comment was unsuccessful.

Comments

JustNoticed 3 years, 8 months ago

"City officials previously have said they wanted to work with the company..." Yah, I think I remember overhearing some of that conversation: "Sure, sure Magna Baby, just tell me how you like, I'm flexible, I can take it anyway you like to give, honey! Just DO ME!!!

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Kontum1972 3 years, 8 months ago

remember corliss is a lawyer...heheheh... me thinks it will fall off the map..... they will just plow over the ground.....and put up a public school...LoL...then as the years roll by people will be wondering why their kids look like frogs...

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Amy Heeter 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm worried about how the failure to enforce safety codes contributed to the death of two men. That is if it did contribute. Why would the city allow this company to continue operating in violation anyway? David Corlis, Trini Wescott we want answers.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

Shouldn't all assets of Magna Gro be seized to finance clean up if this is a "Brownfield" situation?

Should NOT be the responsibility of our tax dollars??

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

Whitney and or Chad

Did the LJW contact the EPA to investigate for toxic poisoning in the soil and in general?

If not shouldn't the EPA be contacted?

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Benjamin Roberts 3 years, 8 months ago

Why does it not seem far-fetched that the city will follow the school district's example of East Heights?

We will look at the paper one day and find out that the commissioners just signed a deal for MagnaGro to lease the Farmland property for $1 per year.

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allamerican4ever 3 years, 8 months ago

to many chemicals for a barber shop. be more suitable for a homeless shelter

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phoglight 3 years, 8 months ago

Zone Inspectors who ordered you not to do your jobs? Chief Barr, who ordered you not to do your duty? Mr. Corliss did you?

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blindrabbit 3 years, 8 months ago

Bruce: Lots of posters agree we need a change in City government; we need an organizer.

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BruceWayne 3 years, 8 months ago

Amyx and the minions did not want the taxpayers to know that they had paid the owner of the building DOUBLE what they paid others for easements. once that story broke last week the ball began rolling on shutting the place down. so when the families of the deceased sue the city will it be our tax dollars to settle? It is time we STOP this form of government.

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phoglight 3 years, 8 months ago

The city was questioned by the Journal-World in June about why the facility was allowed to operate out of compliance with the sewer code. Last week, the Journal-World reported the business had about a dozen fire code violations, including operating without a sprinkler system and improperly storing hazardous materials.

What were the answers? Who else have they allowed to stay open….for YEARS!?! Only one person can tell the fire department not to do their duty! Please answer the questions Mr. Corliss!

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

The City Commissioners are equally responsible.

After all it took the LJW pressure to get the placed closed.

Can we imagine that there is a Magna Gro brownfield in that neighborhood? Taxpayers grab your wallets!

Is the soil being tested by the EPA and/or KDHE?

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blindrabbit 3 years, 8 months ago

I worked for a large regional company, we went out of our way to be in compliance with all regulations (EPA, KDHE, DOT, OSHA etc.) We were routinely inspected by these groups for compliance infractions. Fortunately, we did a good job and had few minor issues over the years. In conversations with City, State and Fed. inspectors, it became apparent to me that these agencies inspected the compliers much more often than the non-compliers. Think about it, they had a certain number to do each reporting period, and those companies that were in compliance caused much less paperwork for the inspectors. They were not rewarded for finding problems, only inspections count. Probably some of that in the MagnaGro case.

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Richard Payton 3 years, 8 months ago

Repeating what I said yesterday about the Mosque. Zoning and code enforcement laws exist to protect the general public from people that think they can do whatever they want.

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Machiavelli_mania 3 years, 8 months ago

That says a lot about the city inspectors. Hmmm! Wonder what else they are overlooking or practicing the blind eye.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

Magna Gro is not unusual.

Is the owner going to be prosecuted? Is the city going to be prosecuted? Where is the EPA? Where is KDHE?

How do these situations get by inspections?

How about the Haskell Recyclers at 12 and Haskell? Are they being allowed to not comply because they have legal counsel? Who at city hall is current with this situation? Where is the EPA? Where is KDHE? Where is acceptable follow up?

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

The property owners and the business owner have some explaining to do and so does City Hall.

All have been negligent.

Not so long along a building at 13th and Haskell was rehabilitated. The neighborhood took an interest aka paying attention. The property owner and neighborhood assoc had interaction. It was going to be office space.

The neighborhood association looked over the site plan. Next thing you know a garage door showed up that was not in the site plan. Next thing you know a pesticide operation turned up. None of the above was part of the site plan. The building was NOT designed for mixing,storing or disposal of toxic chemicals. The property owner redesigned the site plan and the inspectors never raised any questions. The neighborhood association took on the property owner. The city commission was not especially helpful in spite of the alterations.

The pesticide business was shut down. However the city commission was not all that aggressive and should have been. They did not want to make the property comply with the site plan because the rehab job was finished. In the meantime the property owner had contacted a business woman to buy the property. She complied with the site plan and opened a beauty shop...... lucky for the neighborhood.

Meanwhile the property owner got away.

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toe 3 years, 8 months ago

Many businesses are shut down in Lawrence, only usually slowly and with little fanfare. The oppressive tax, regulatory, and general business climate kills many businesses here. More importantly, many more never get off the ground.

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blindrabbit 3 years, 8 months ago

My guess the recent "discovery" probably had to do with some lawyers or regulatory agency putting the "heat" on the City. Knowingly, letting a business operate in violation of City and other codes, puts more blame on the regulators than the operator. Look for a big lawsuit coming down the pike.

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werekoala 3 years, 8 months ago

"Last week, the Journal-World reported the business had about a dozen fire code violations, including operating without a sprinkler system and improperly storing hazardous materials.

After that discovery, the city set a deadline of Wednesday for the company to comply or take major steps toward compliance."

"Discovery" ... Really? Hey that's funny I was looking through my own files and discovered that I've owned a car for the past two years. The city didn't discover bupkis, they either had their memory jogged, or more likely, they already knew it and just didn't feel any sense of urgency about shutting down a chronic violator of every environmental, worker safety, and hazmat standard he could find. After all, you can't be pro-growth if you ever shut down anyone for any reason. I shudder to think what that means in terms of restaurant inspections...

But nothing was discovered here. It was merely published. And the fact that it was the publicity, rather than the discovery, that spurred City Hall to action should tell you everything you need to know about the priorities up there...

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Christine Anderson 3 years, 8 months ago

I think I hear the "Hallelujah Chorus" playing!

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puddleglum 3 years, 8 months ago

and as far as safety goes, I'm sure that the owner of magnagrow didn't care-I mean cause the accident for those unfortunates.

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puddleglum 3 years, 8 months ago

here we go again. the mean old progressive city commission running another business out of town. Poor ol guy was just trying to make a buck and the carter administration runs him out by regulating everything. its his property, why can't he dump toxic waste on it? he owns it. if the neighbors don't like it, they can move. they shut his water off just because he is dumping toxic waste into the city's sewer system? kinda harsh, don't ya think? Now we won't get another wal-mart cuz of this. so we just lost another 5000 jobs for the area-and not "eliteism-liberal jobs" I mean REAL good ones-you know the 7.50/hr 32hr/wk no benefit no insurance no vacation type of jobs that we republicans count on for cheap and expendable labor. dang. where can a bro make a buck without being hassled by the hippies?

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blindrabbit 3 years, 8 months ago

tony, OK, Maybe, but where was the City, OSHA, KDHE, EPA and probably DOT! Did they have respirators, if so was there a OSHA mandated Respiratory Training Program??? Many others, but it is obvious MagnaGro had many issues. How could they operated with no water and sani8tary sewage hook-ups?? Etc., etc., etc.!!

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

It is very likely this building was never NOT designed to carry out a Toxic Chemical business.

How did they get by inspections in the first place? Plus were ignored by city hall for 3 years?

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grammaddy 3 years, 8 months ago

How, in good conscience, can you store hazardous materials without the availability of water and sewer? Sounds like a fire code violation to me, Wouldn't the city and the Fire Marshall's office both be liable? I'm glad to see it shut down, but where were the City Commission and Fire Department on this?

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mr_right_wing 3 years, 8 months ago

Next question.....

Can the families of the two who died sue the City for not taking sufficient actions before the two deaths? I can't imagine this company won't go into bankruptcy protection, so they won't be able to be sued.

I'd have mixed feelings on that...yeah the city should have taken action long ago; but on the other hand how (when water and sewer are disconnected) can you not figure out that this isn't exactly a safe place to work; yes today jobs are really hard to find, but you only have one life to lose.

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blindrabbit 3 years, 8 months ago

Maybe get KDOT to help with the clean-up costs (I'm sure will be required at MagnaGro) as part of the K10/23rd Street bridge replacement project. The City already has assumed much of the Farmland clean-up cost; our own little "Superfunds".

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jafs 3 years, 8 months ago

Good - you can have it, along with the toxic waste and unsafe working conditions that go with it.

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stickerman 3 years, 8 months ago

It sure seems to me that we are only getting one side of what is happening here. Funny that the city is shutting the business down for not maintaining the city services that the city pulled from the business in the first place. Why would a company want to spend 10's of thousands of dollars installing a sprinkler system into a building that they didn't own. Besides, it is just a metal skinned building, kind of a big garage for the most part. If the city held everybody else to the same standards, they would run half the businesses out of that town. If only he had foresight to use a Jayhawk in his logo, they probably would have left him alone. Unavailable for comment? Hell yes, nobody wants to hear his side. Come on over to Shawnee County, Ray. We could use the business.

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oneeye_wilbur 3 years, 8 months ago

A Mayor running a city is hardly the answer. Look at Funkhouser.

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estespark 3 years, 8 months ago

If Walter Peck was still with EPA this would have been resolved YEARS ago.

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MacHeath 3 years, 8 months ago

What a way to run a business. Too bad tar and feathers is not allowed.

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Amy Heeter 3 years, 8 months ago

Couldn't the city be sued by the surviors of the workers that died?

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BruceWayne 3 years, 8 months ago

I am sure Amyx and his minions are foaming at the mouth to purchase this toxic dump.

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consumer1 3 years, 8 months ago

Boy when the LJW sets out to put someone out of business, they go for the jugular. Good Job!! Your not mad at me are you???? :o(

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Keith 3 years, 8 months ago

Is this another example of the hippies on the city commission being business unfriendly? :-)

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 8 months ago

"An attempt to reach MagnaGro manager Ray Sawyer for comment was unsuccessful."

He should be easy to find-- in Lansing, perhaps?

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Number_1_Grandma 3 years, 8 months ago

Just goes to show you that a city manager form of government does NOT work. City manager directs ALL city employees what to do or in this case, what NOT to do! Having an election of a strong MAYOR/ city manager form of government forces the city manager to answer to the mayor who can fire him. Our present form of government says 3 city commissioners must vote to fire him or direct him what to do. Much different and why no real changes come from electing new city commissioners. City manager knows he can buffalo new commissioners every 2 yrs (election cycle).

Want REAL change? Get rid of the city manager with election of commissioners; with merry go round 1 yr Mayors with no powers form of government!! Change to election of a Mayor for 4 yrs- who the city manager directly answers to. Elect councilmen from different areas of town to be represented for 2 ys. Corruption kept to a minimum with quicker results for changes. This form of government would possibly have saved 2 mens lives had we had the public informed Mayor of troubles and Mayor says to city manager to "shut'em down" until they comply, instead of "do nothing" city manager we currently have!!

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Amy Heeter 3 years, 8 months ago

What was the city doing in the last three years?

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Boston_Corbett 3 years, 8 months ago

The photo is of a door listing an address of 600 E 23rd.

The article talks about 600 E 22nd.

Is this the crafty plan that has kept them hidden?

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