MagnaGro continues to draw the ire of governmental agencies.
On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a civil complaint and compliance order against the agriculture fertilizer company for failing to tell the federal agency what hazardous wastes are on site.
The order comes after the city of Lawrence this summer declared the business at 600 E. 22nd St. “unfit for human occupancy” and boarded the doors.
In April, two men suffocated when they were overcome by fumes from a material being mixed at the site. Following that deadly incident, the EPA conducted compliance inspections of the facility and found a number of suspected solid and hazardous wastes.
On July 28, the EPA notified MagnaGro of the violations and requested more information from owner Ray Sawyer. Sawyer has not responded to that request or subsequent ones, EPA spokesman Chris Whitely said.
“We have to have an exact determination of what is at the site, what wastes are there and in what quantities,” Whitely said. “This is one more action to compel him to do that.”
Within 30 days, the EPA order requires Sawyer to provide an inventory of all drums, totes and other containers at the facility and to determine whether the wastes are hazardous. It also requires Sawyer to submit a plan for disposing of the hazardous wastes immediately.
Sawyer, who was out of town on Friday, said he was not aware of the EPA order. Since the city shut down the business in July, Sawyer said it is illegal for him to enter the building to comply with the EPA’s request for more information.
Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard agreed that Sawyer can’t enter the building. But, she noted the city is reviewing a plan Sawyer submitted to vacate the building. As part of that process, the city will consider allowing Sawyer to go into the building to gather the information the EPA has requested.
Sawyer said that the materials on site are not dangerous, but under the EPA’s guidelines any abandoned material is considered hazardous.
This isn’t the first time that Sawyer has come under fire from the EPA. In 2009, Sawyer pleaded guilty in federal court to discharging waste from a fertilizer operation into the city’s sewer system. According to court records, Sawyer was sentenced to five years of probation for the misdemeanor offense. He and the company were required to pay a $240,000 fine related to charges, which stemmed from a 2001 incident.
In the current case, no fines have been issued.