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State Fines EQ, Seeks to Revoke Permit

Posted March 6, 2007

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— State regulators on Tuesday levied a $553,225 fine against a hazardous waste handler that owns the site of a massive Apex chemical fire and recommended that the company's permit be terminated.

The state Division of Waste Management cited Environmental Quality Industrial Services for violations of the state Solid Waste Management Act and the Hazardous Waste Management Rules.

EQ's Apex facility erupted in flames on Oct. 5, sending a plume of smoke across town. Officials called for the evacuation of about 17,000 Apex residents, fearing that toxic chemicals were in the plume.

Residents were allowed to return home a day later -- after the fire had burned itself out -- and subsequent state tests showed no immediate or long-term health threats.

Because the EQ facility was destroyed, authorities haven't been able to pinpont the cause of the fire, but they have said they believe chemicals were improperly stored at the site.

The compliance order issued by the state determined EQ didn't comply with permit conditions associated with general facility standards, preparedness and prevention, contingency plan and emergency procedures and recordkeeping and reporting.

The order also stated that EQ didn't report to state regulators incidents involving chemical reactions, fires and waste releases that occurred at the Apex site before the fire.

The fine is among the largest handed out by the state in recent years. EQ was fined $32,000 a year ago for several violations.

“Our actions send a clear message that the state of North Carolina will not tolerate non-compliance with rules and non-reporting of incidents that occur at commercial hazardous waste facilities across the state,” Division of Waste Management Director Dexter Matthews said in a statement.

EQ officials have said that they want to rebuild in Apex, but town leaders have said they would try to block any such moves.

Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly said he was "relieved and gratified" by the state's action.

"We have strongly advocated this course of action all along, and the facts uncovered in the state's investigation bear out that this dangerous facility must be removed from our community," Weatherly said in a statement.

The company has 60 days to contest the fine.

“We are surprised that (the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources) has elected to move forward with its effort to terminate our hazardous waste permit despite the fact their own data shows no environmental impact,” EQ Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Scott Maris said in a statement.

The state also has issued its intent to terminate EQ's state permit, which would force the facility to remain closed.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 12 at Apex Town Hall. People also can file comments with the state on the proposal until April 23.

EQ is reviewing the state's permit termination notice but hasn't decided how to proceed, Maris said.

7 Comments

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  • Me-N-Nc Mar 6, 2007

    Wow, I am so happy to see that many of us are looking at this situation with an open mind! Again, I hate that this happened, but we are to learn from our past and be stronger in the future, not just richer!!!!! Well put about how we make the waste. We that live in Apex need to let our council know that we are not all on the evict EQ tractor. But on the keep business here and work with them walk.... One step at a time.

  • superman Mar 6, 2007

    You better think twice about the fine and the impact it will have? How do you think they are going to dispose of waste and who you think is ultimately going to pay to get rid of it? We create it and we have to pay to dispose of it. The state is the only one who will benefit from the fine. We will all pay the fine in increased cost from any company who has this type of waste. When will people realize that nothing is free.

  • Trooper Mar 6, 2007

    N.C. Needs money, but they didn't fine Durham for an illegal dump. sort of lopsided on the fines and does Durham even have a permit yet

  • OLD PIRATE Mar 6, 2007

    Warning to business...NC had rather fine you after a problem than work with you to insure you don't have one. Why not sue the state for failure to insure your plant was unsafe. John Edwards needs work

  • methinks Mar 6, 2007

    How can such fines and termination of the permit be allowed to happen if they can not even determine the cause? Seems to be a political move instead of a common sense move. Any Court will stop the fine and the termination.

  • Me-N-Nc Mar 6, 2007

    Really? I hope they are going to look into the Lowes and HD too. I must be missing something here.... But was EQ not there before almost all of the housing divisions in a 2.5 mile area? And if so, why are we so upset with EQ and not with our Town Council, who I understand have to approve building permit request. I hate what happened, and yes it effected me as I live in Apex and my in laws live in an area that was evacuated, but I am not sure that I want a business ran out of town. Now, because it is gone and there is an option of moving the location, we should look to offer them a trade for their land in downtown Apex to land the city owns off the beaten path. Just my option.

  • El Doggo Mar 6, 2007

    Good move - a little late- but a good move!