Cumberland Times-News

Local News

July 10, 2012

Judge reverses $50,000 fine, upholds MDE permit denial for Mexico Farms

CUMBERLAND — An Allegany County Circuit Court judge upheld enforcement actions by the state against a local wastewater processing company but tossed out a $50,000 fine for pollution law violations.

Judge Gary Leasure also ruled the Maryland Department of the Environment could deny a permit for further wastewater treatment to Mexico Farms LLC, a company that processes wastewater for Fibred, a soybean processing and manufacturing operation.

“ ... there is substantial evidence in the record to support MDE’s determination to deny renewal of the permit,” Leasure wrote in his order.

However, Fibred was not targeted in the MDE actions against Mexico Farms. Mexico Farms remains in bankruptcy proceedings.

Leasure told the Office of Administrative Hearings to reconsider the fine, so it is possible some sort of fine could be imposed.

Leasure’s orders in the two related cases were entered June 15.

Missing parts of the hearing record from a hearing before an administrative law judge slowed the proceedings.

The circuit court acts as an appeals court to administrative law hearings.

The company was challenging a Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings order issued on May 26 at the request of the MDE fining Mexico Farms LLC $50,000 and ordering the company to halt spray irrigation and to dispose of wastewater while creating an “acceptable interim alternative” for disposal.

The order also required the company to “rehabilitate the spray fields and return them to productive use for cover crops; to employ a qualified professional engineer to design, build and operate an upgraded wastewater treatment plant; to employ a qualified engineer to repair leaking lagoons; to empty and discontinue use of the old storage lagoon and to design and implement interim measures to control nuisance odors from leaving the property,” according to MDE officials.

Mexico Farms maintained that their business could suffer serious harm if forced to comply with the state requirements. Fibred’s business could also be damaged, the company maintained.

“There is simply no emergency,” state officials said in court papers. The MDE filings stated that Mexico Farms could survive since they’d already contracted with another company, Synagro, to haul away its wastewater.

The company also challenged the denial of the wastewater disposal permit. The permit had allowed Mexico Farms to discharge 210,000 gallons a day of wastewater and stormwater, according to MDE records.

Mexico Farms has also filed for bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland Greenbelt Division. The company wants to reorganize under Chapter 11.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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