The Agency of Natural Resources announced today that Blakeman’s Towing and Recovery, an automotive towing and recovery business located in Tunbridge, was fined $25,000 for operating in violation of state salvage yard and land use laws, and hazardous waste management regulations.
Salvage yards provide important waste management services to Vermonters by reusing and recycling a range of materials from automobiles and scrap metal to hazardous waste like battery acid and vehicle fluids. Hazardous materials can have severe impacts if released to the environment, including contaminating soils, groundwater and drinking water, and degrading public health. Because of this risk, salvage yards are responsible for operating in compliance with laws that protect public health and the environment. In addition to complying with State Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, Vermont salvage yards must hold a municipal Certificate of Approved Location (COAL), which considers appropriate siting of the business, including its proximity to schools, neighbors, and drinking water sources. Once a salvage yard operator secures a COAL, a state-level Certificate of Registration (COR) is required annually. Blakeman’s Towing and Recovery violated these requirements by operating two unpermitted salvage yards and improperly managing hazardous waste at their towing and recovery business.
“Annual registration with the Agency of Natural Resources allows our Salvage Yard Program to support these important businesses,” says Emily Boedecker, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. “We offer best management practices, training materials and information to Salvage Yard operators to encourage proactive business practices that are protective of Vermont citizens and the environment.”
During the fall of 2013 and early 2014, in response to complaints that oil was being dumped, the Vermont Natural Resources Board (NRB) and the Agency of Natural Resources jointly inspected the business property in Tunbridge as well as the operator’s property in Sharon. At both properties, personnel observed active, but unpermitted, salvage yards and improperly managed hazardous waste. Dozens of car batteries stored on bare ground and an active release to the environment of used automotive oil were observed during the inspection. Additionally, the NRB found that the parcel is subject to Act 250 jurisdiction, originally permitted in 2003. The 2003 permit required written approval from the District 3 Environmental Commission prior to any design or use changes on the property, which was never obtained.
After multiple attempts to negotiate a cleanup schedule and reach voluntary compliance, the Agency filed an Administrative Order (AO) with the Environmental Court in 2016 to compel the business to cease operations and clean the hazardous waste. Following the issuance of the AO, Blakeman’s Towing and Recovery agreed to settle this matter with an Assurance of Discontinuance in early 2017. The Assurance was incorporated into a Final Judicial Order on June 7, 2017 and requires a penalty of $25,000 plus enforcement costs expended by the NRB. The Order also requires Blakeman Towing and Recovery to immediately cease salvage yard operations until necessary permits and compliance with hazardous waste management regulations are obtained.
For more information about DEC’s Salvage Yard Program, including a current list of permitted salvage yards, visit http://dec.vermont.gov/waste-management/salvage-yards.