Companies fined for air-quality violations

The WNC Regional Air Pollution Contol Agency board imposed several fines for air-quality violations and adopted new state regulations during its Oct. 6 meeting. At the same meeting, a member of the board received a coveted state award.

Dr. Roy Roberts, a 90-year-old retired physician and longtime member of the board, received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, given by the state to such distinguished citizens as Michael Jordan and retiring Rep. Charles Beall.

The board adopted 100 pages’ worth of new air-quality regulations approved by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources in July. The board “had no choice but to adopt the new state reulations,” according to APCA Director Jim Cody.

“A lot of the regulations involve minor changes, and some have been streamlined to make them more understandable,” Cody explained. “Regulations pertaining to asphalt plants, for example, were simplified — if there is such a thing — to make them easier to understand.”

The board also cited two oil companies and an individual for air-quality violations.

Pisgah Oil Co. of Haywood County was fined $5,000 for an Aug. 7 incident involving improper vapor recovery. The board reduced the initial $7,500 civil penalty to $5,000 after the company’s general manager and an attorney appealed the fine.

A driver — who had worked for Pisgah Oil Co. for 18 months before the Aug.7 incident and has since resigned — signed a statement confirming that he had been trained in the proper way to install the required vapor-recovery equipment during the fueling process, according to Canton attorney Pat Smathers. Pisgah spent about $30,000 retrofitting the truck to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards, he said.

“We’re trying to do everything we’re supposed to do, but it’s expensive and confusing to stay up with all the new information that comes out,” noted Pisgah General Manager Roger Hampton. “We try to keep our equipment maintained and train our employees, but we can’t monitor every delivery they make,” he pleaded.

Board Chair Doug Clark agreed with the board’s unanimous decision to reduce the fine, since the penalty was imposed simultaneously on two separate gas lines. “Fines are just a tool of enforcement,” he told Hampton, adding, “We’re more interested in having you train your employees.”

The APCA also reduced a $5,000 fine levied against Rankin-Patterson 0il Company of Asheville for an asbestos violation to $1,000. A $3,000 fine against Rufino Menendez Loredo for an open-burning violation was also reduced to $1,000.

An attorney representing Rankin-Patterson explained that the fine was appealed because company officials feel they acted responsibly when tearing down an old building in Swannanoa. Their efforts included conducting an environmental audit, the attorney said, adding that the company had relied on a contractor to obtain all the required permits.

Loredo, who owns the property where several large piles of brush were burned near N.C. 20, also asked for lenience on his burning violation. His attorney said Loredo has been attempting to clear vegetation from his property, and that workers had burned the piles of brush before he could check on the legal burning procedure.

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