by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON — A tire recycling business that lists a Mingo County Commission candidate as its owner has a history of violations cited by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
East Kentucky Tire Recycling owner Thomas Taylor said Wednesday that the “DEP has cost this state more jobs than anyone else.” He had been asked for a response to the nearly 40 pages of violations listed by DEP in answer to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request provided to the Corridor Chronicle.
Taylor insisted that, despite repeated notices of violation filed by the DEP, that “I have always been in compliance with permits and regulations.”
The tale of paperwork says otherwise, and a DEP spokesman in Charleston said, “the inspector who wrote that business up has plenty of experience and knows the law.”
Taylor is a Democrat candidate for County Commission, challenging current Commissioner John Mark Hubbard. Mark Vernatter is also in the race.
Asked if Taylor’s business had “always been in full compliance with current permits,” as the owner said, the DEP spokesman said, “The citations speak for themselves but the answer is absolutely not.”
Taylor grew contentious when questioned by a reporter. At first Taylor said the notices of violations were “none of your business.” When told that the reporter believed the violations “need to be known by the voters of Mingo County,” Taylor became more outraged.
He repeatedly told the reporter that the Corridor Chronicle is “not a real newspaper” and said “what I do in my private business is my business.” He appeared to disagree that Mingo voters had a right to know about the violations.
Taylor continued to insist that he and his business “always had a permit and never broke the law.” The reporter asked, again, if Taylor was familiar with the Notices of Violation from the DEP. He said that he was. Then the reporter asked Taylor if he comprehended the notices or if he was “too dumb to understand them.” Taylor made numerous threats after that exchange.
Documents provided by the DEP indicate Taylor’s troubles began April 9, 2015, when he was cited for “Discharging without a valid permit.” He was given 15 days to respond to the allegations.
During his exchange with the reporter, Taylor said the DEP “is totally out of control” and then mentioned a $70,000 grant he received to purchase equipment. “Why would they give me a grant or give me a certificate like they did if I was out of compliance?” he asked. Taylor added that his business recently received a recycling award.
“Just because there are violations and we have to pay fines doesn’t mean we have done anything wrong,” Taylor said. “It’s part of the cost of doing business.”
In an order dated May 22, 2015, the DEP says East Kentucky Tire Recycling is a business located at 30 Quality Drive in Matewan. It says that on April 3, 2013, the recycler was issued a water control permit that expired on December 31, 2014. On March 19, 2013, East Kentucky was approved for recycling. On December 15, 2014 an inspection was made of the facilities.
Numerous violations were discovered. Then on January 15, 2015, the agency cited the facility for failing to properly store recyclable material and conduct all operations within enclosed structures, and storing material for more than 60 days, creating an open dump. The order required East Kentucky to immediately cease and desist from its illegal operations. They were asked to provide all necessary paperwork to be licensed and to provie a plan of corrective action.
On February 3, 2015, a civil penalty was assessed to East Kentucky “for creating an open dump of waste tires at its facility.” On February 13, East Kentucky provided a corrective plan that did not earn DEP approval. Reasons for the refusal to approve the plan were Taylor’s request that his facility be permitted to handle more tires each month and the fact that no timetable was provided for improvements.
East Kentucky revised its plan in a March 3, 2015 meeting, reducing the intake to the previous level of 6,000 tires per month. On April 9, inspectors again visited the site. The inspectors found “numerous piles” of un-shredded tires. East Kentucky officials told the inspectors “the shredder was functional” and the tires would be shredded within three to four weeks.
The order says East Kentucky had failed to apply for renewal of its permit within the time allowed by law and violated several safety procedures already outlined here.
Inspectors provided numerous photographs that appear to show tires piled several feet high. Inspectors regularly noted that Eastern Kentucky was not complying with the orders given to them. Numerous citations were issued through 2015.
As late as February 19 of this year, the facility was charged with discharging without a valid permit.
Before hanging up on the reporter Wednesday, Taylor continued to maintain the matter was “nobody’s business” and that “DEP is ruining the state of West Virginia.” He remained adamant that he had always had the proper licenses and permits.
A current County Commissioner said, when told of Taylor’s woes with DEP, “how can Thomas Taylor be trusted to run the county if he cannot run his own business without getting in trouble?”
Taylor challenged the reporter to “say what you have about me to my face.”