A former candidate for Greene County sheriff has asked the Greene County Circuit Court to dismiss a civil case against him, brought by the state, saying he was denied due process rights, according to court records filed on Dec. 20.
The Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Waste Management Board and the State Water Quality Board jointly filed the lawsuit on Aug. 9 against Kenneth Collier Sr., of Ruckersville. Collier was not present for the scheduled motion’s hearing on Dec. 2 and contends in his court documents that he was not properly given notice of the hearing.
The state’s lawsuit alleges Collier operated a solid waste disposal facility without a permit; discharges of stormwater associated with industrial activity without a permit; and disturbing more than one acre of land without the proper permit.
The lawsuit asks the court to order Collier to shut down the landfill, to remove all waste from his property and dispose of it properly and to penalize Collier with the maximum allowable civil fines, which are up to $32,500 per day for each violation of each of the three charges—or up to $97,500 for each day he remains in violation.
Collier said in his motion that notice for the hearing was sent to the wrong address on Carpenters Mill Road in Ruckersville, noting the “mistake” could have been discovered by “due diligence.”
Collier attached several pieces of evidence of his correct address on Carpenters Mill Road, including a copy of his Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Real ID, a fishing license and a subpoena to be a witness for a 2012 case in Greene County General District Court.
Christopher E. Bergin Jr., assistant attorney general in the environmental protection section, filed the motion to compel on Nov. 18 after he said Collier failed to answer plaintiff’s interrogatories in the lawsuit, even after he sent a letter to Collier explaining why the answers were deficient.
The Hon. Judge Claude Worrell ordered on Dec. 2 that Collier complete the responses and deliver the appropriate documents requested to the plaintiff. Additionally, because Collier did not admit or deny requests for admissions on several items in the lawsuits, the court ruled that Collier in fact admitted to them, including that on Oct. 6, 2017, Collier was “operating the site as a facility for the disposal, treatment or storage of nonhazardous solid waste without a permit.”
The court ruled that Collier admitted to the site receiving and storing industrial waste and conducting land-disturbing activity at the site without proper permits.
Collier had 21 days to comply with the order, however he has moved to dismiss with prejudice because he was not properly notified of the hearing.
The lawsuit stems from a citizen’s 2017 complaint to the state DEQ. The complainant was worried that hundreds of dump trucks dropping solid waste on Collier’s property also might be polluting the site with lead and asbestos.
When DEQ staff members obtained a warrant to inspect Collier’s property, they found a roughly 1.38-acre fill area on the south end of the site that was between 12 and 20 feet deep. It was full of bricks, metal tubes and cables, pipes, insulation, glass and rebar, according to the suit.
One of Collier’s employees was grading the waste pile with a back loader and observed the inspectors, who also noted discarded storage tanks, appliances and junk cars scattered across the rest of Collier’s property, the suit states.
According to exhibits filed with the lawsuit, soil samples were taken in March 2018 and showed no asbestos but found many other types of metal including: aluminum; arsenic; cobalt; iron; manganese; vanadium; and copper.
The 2017 complaint was just the latest in decades of complaints about the property, according to the lawsuit. Collier has operated a salvage yard on the site since 1976.
Over the years, Collier repeatedly was served notice for burying mulch and tree debris, construction waste and demolition debris, and each time promised to fix the problem, the suit states.
Virginia law regulates dumps and landfills in an effort to control the hazardous waste that can leach into the soil and water from such areas. It also regulates “land-disturbing” activities, which means moving more than one acre of land in a way that changes stormwater runoff.
At press time no court date had been set for the hearing on Collier’s motion to dismiss.