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Manager Of Durham Waste Facility On Leave After Fire

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DURHAM, N.C. — The manager of a Durham waste facility that caught fire last month is now on administrative leave.

About the same time that Durham's yard waste facility started burning in September, city officials placed Roosevelt Carter on administrative leave. Durham City Manager Patrick Baker refused to connect Carter's status to the fire, citing confidentiality requirements in personnel matters.

Carter became manager of the site in July 2004, three days after the city's permit expired. Since that time, numerous letters from the Division of Waste Management of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources were sent to city officials, warning them to make necessary changes to the facility. All of the letters were addressed to Carter.

"It's absolutely unacceptable how we treated the state regulatory agency," Baker said.

Baker recently completed a report that details the chain of information surrounding the facility prior to the fire. While the report was not made available to WRAL, Baker said it shows he had been aware that managers were working on permit issues. However, he said that the managers had left out important details.

"We missed another deadline, we failed to respond here, we're in trouble with NCDENR, NCDENR is giving us 30 days to respond or shut down, and we didn't do either," Baker said. "Those are the types of things I needed to hear."

The fire at the yard-waste facility was extinguished nearly two weeks after it started on Sept. 10. City officials have said they believe the fire was caused by spontaneous combustion, which can occur in large piles of yard waste when organic materials begin to decay.

Baker said the slow response by city officials to the state agency's warnings has soured relations between them. He said he's now working to restore them and obtain a new permit for the facility.

"We will make some decisions about changes in the structure, and there may be disciplinary action," he said.

Carter was unavailable for comment on Thursday.


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