Treatment operator ordered to test for hazardous wastes |

Treatment operator ordered to test for hazardous wastes

Regulations concerning how a Craig man should operate his solid-waste-treatment operation don’t apply to his facility, but the man still didn’t act in compliance with state codes, a district judge ruled during an injunction hearing Tuesday.

“I do think there are problems with these regulations as they apply to Mr. Bethell and nobody else,” said Chief District Judge Michael O’Hara. “But based on testimony, there were attempts for him to comply, though it doesn’t change the circumstances that he did not comply (with the regulations.)”

Philp Bethell, operator of a waste-treatment facility, appeared in district court in a civil suit filed against him by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The state agency wanted to require him to perform random sampling at his Elk Springs Recycle and Recovery, about 50 miles west of Craig.

Bethell will have to undergo one year of random sampling at his business, though not the five years of testing that the government agency originally suggested.

O’Hara said that Bethell will have to work with the agency to develop a protocol for measuring whether there are any hazardous wastes being dumped into the facility or six monitoring wells on his property. He also will be required to pay for costs of the sampling. Any deviation of injunction will be grounds for closure of the facility, O’Hara said.

Bethell has been an owner and operator of the solid-waste-treatment plant Elk Springs Recycle and Recovery since about 1990, according to testimony Tuesday.

He was issued a first violation by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in 2001, O’Hara said.

In 2003, the agency sent Bethell a letter informing him that under a grandfather clause, his facility was exempt from section 9 of the Solid Waste Act. The section typically regulates facilities such as Bethell’s business.

But according to testimony Tuesday, there are only three other solid-waste sites in the state that fall under the same category as Bethell’s operation and none is considered exempt.

That seemed to make it a tricky matter for the judge to rule on.

O’Hara said he found no evidence from Tuesday’s testimony that hazardous waste had been identified at the facility, as was suspected by officials from the state agency.

Bethell had an independent study done of his facility this year, but had not directed the environmental engineer to test for hazardous waste, according to testimony.

The facility is not designed or regulated to accept hazardous waste. Disposing hazardous waste properly probably costs five times the amount of disposing solid waste, as there is no such facility in Northwest Colorado, one witness testified.

Hazardous waste was loosely described as solvents from cleaning machinery used in oil and gas production and wastes left over at the sites of drilling operations.

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