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State Sues Owners, Operators, Waste Tire Haulers for Cleanup, Abatement, Removal of Wastes Resulting From Last Year's Massive Westley Tire Fire

Tuesday, April 4, 2000
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) -- Attorney General Bill Lockyer announced today the filing of a civil suit seeking penalties, restitution and court orders for the cleanup, abatement and removal of residue resulting from last year's massive Westley tire fire that burned for 34 days in Stanislaus County. According to estimates, cleanup, abatement and remediation costs could exceed $20 million.

On September 22, 1999, lightening struck a waste pile containing some six million tires. The fire poured tons of smoke and pollutants into the air, melted waste tires into at least 250,000 gallons of molten oil, threatened surface and groundwater drinking supplies with contamination, and required extraordinary efforts and expenses to contain. Waste tires had been stockpiled at the Westley facility since the 1960s and were used for a waste-to-energy operation.

The civil suit was filed against the Filbins, who include landowners Edward and Mary Filbin, the Filbin family trust, the M.J. Filbin Trust, and Cal-Neva Ranch Company; and at least eight companies and their related business entities affiliated with the Westley waste-to-energy operations. The companies include Oxford Energy Tire Recycling of Northern California; Oxford Tire Recycling of Northern California; Modesto Energy Limited Partnership, a tires-to-energy facility in Westley; Omega Tires Inc.; and Heights II, Inc., which was in the business of hauling and storing waste tires. Also named was Mark Kirkland, owner, operator and president of Oxford, Omega and Heights II, Inc.

"The tire inferno left behind pollution from contaminated soil and threats to our groundwater," Lockyer said. "We want the landowners, waste tire haulers and waste-to-energy operators to be responsible for cleaning up the mess, removing waste tires and ensuring we don't have another calamity."

The lawsuit was filed by the Attorney General representing four state agencies. Various environmental protection agencies of the Davis administration responded to assist local authorities with the tire fire, including the California Integrated Waste Management Board, California Air Resources Board, Water Resources Control Board, Department of Toxic Substances Control, and Department of Fish and Game's Office of Spill Prevention and Response.

"Let this be a wake up call for those who flaunt the law and put personal profit ahead of our citizens' health and safety," said IWMB Chairman Dan Eaton. "We intend to pursue all responsible parties who caused this tragic event to occur and seek to recover taxpayer dollars that were expended in order to protect the residents of the Central Valley."

Among other things, the civil suit asks the Stanislaus County Superior Court to:

* Direct the Filbins, Oxford and Total Tire Recycling, LLC (TTR) to comply with cleanup and abatement orders of the state Integrated Waste Management Board, which in April 1998 and July 1999 required the scheduled removal of all waste tires remaining at the Filbin site. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties against Oxford and TTR of up to $3.65 million and additional penalties of up to $12,500 per day until the cleanup and abatement orders are satisfied. Civil penalties of up to $12,500 per day also are sought against the Filbins, beginning October 8, 1999, and until such time the cleanup and abatement orders are met.

* Direct each defendant to take all necessary steps to abate the Westley tire pile and effects of the fire, both above-ground and buried tires, and remediate effects of the tire fire and pile. The lawsuit also seeks to have the Filbins, Oxford, TTR and Modesto Energy Limited Partnership restore the Westley site to its natural condition and abate the tire pile, including above-ground and buried tires.

* Restitution of wrongful profits earned by Filbin, Oxford, TTR and MELP/UAE for unlawful business practices that include failure to comply with requirements of the waste board, applicable fire protection requirements, tire pile management requirements, as well as applicable zoning requirements.

* Assess damages of $326,804 against the Filbins, Oxford, TTR and CMS Generation Co. for remediation cost and breach of contract relating to the failure to remove tires dumped near the Westley tires-to-energy facility.

* Assess damages of approximately $500,000 against all defendants for the recovery of state waste board costs for "winterizing" the Westley site. The lawsuit also seeks monetary damages against the defendants for oversight and investigation costs, including $16,050 for the Office of Spill Prevention and Response, Department of Fish and Game.

* Assess damages of approximately $1.3 million against Filbin, Oxford, TTR and CMS to repay the state for the cost of removing oversized tires from the waste site.

* Assess damages against all defendants for the cost of fire suppression efforts and remediation at Westley site due to defendants' negligence.

* Civil penalties of up to $2,500 per day against MELP/UAE Energy Corp. for failure to meet conditions of its waste tire facility permit. The conditions include maintaining adequate fire control measures that would have allowed the lightening-ignited fire to be easily extinguished in its early stages. The civil suit alleges that company employees failed to quickly activate the water cannon fire suppression system and the custom foam fire suppression system.

* Assess monetary damages of $15,000 a day beginning December 20, 1999, against CMS and Oxford for failure to comply with cleanup and abatement orders of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. Also assess monetary damages of $15,000 a day beginning December 7, 1999, for failure to comply with the state water board's cleanup and abatement requirements.

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