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.