No criminal charges filed in case of radioactive waste in Estill landfill

Advanced Disposal operates the Estill County landfill where low-level radioactive waste was dumped. Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said Friday that no criminal charges will be brought.
Advanced Disposal operates the Estill County landfill where low-level radioactive waste was dumped. Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said Friday that no criminal charges will be brought.

No criminal charges will be filed after 1,600 to 1,800 tons of low-level radioactive waste were dumped into an Estill County landfill, according to the Kentucky attorney general’s office.

In February, director of the Kentucky Division of Waste Management Tony Hatton said the waste was brought from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Hatton also said the company, Advanced Tenorm Services of West Liberty, arranged for the waste to be brought to Blue Ridge Landfill in Estill County.

There wasn’t enough evidence to seek criminal charges, but the office “believes the actions by Advanced Tenorm Services and its owners violate civil law,” Attorney General Andy Beshear announced in a news release Friday. The office conducted a four-month investigation.

“Because of these flagrant violations and reckless disregard for the safety of the community, my office sought the necessary statutory consent from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to pursue damages and penalties to the fullest extent of the law,” Beshear said. “The cabinet declined our request but has stated it plans to pursue such penalties on its own.”

Later on Friday, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services announced that it will seek civil penalties against several companies for the illicit dumping of waste in Estill and Greenup counties.

“The Cabinet intends to impose the harshest civil penalties available under the law against all those responsible for the illegal dumping of waste in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson. “We will not tolerate any actions that threaten the health and well-being of our citizens.”

On Jan. 19, the chief of the West Virginia Radiological Health Program informed the Cabinet that Advanced Tenorm Services “may have been” illegally facilitating the dumping of out-of-state radioactive waste at a landfill in Estill County.

In other developments, Estill County Judge-Executive Wallace Taylor said Friday morning that the fiscal court intended to file a suit alleging various violations of a “host agreement” the county had with the landfill. The county did file suit before the end of the day, WKYT reported.

“I am absolutely aggravated with the state of Kentucky,” Taylor said. “They knew this stuff was coming into our community six months before I did. We’re supposed to be in a partnership.”

Taylor said he is scheduled to speak Tuesday to a legislative committee in Frankfort about the radioactive waste.

“I don’t care what the state does. I know what we’re going to do,” Taylor said. “I’m going to throw them not under the bus but under the train for not sharing this information with our people.”

Meanwhile, a rally is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Estill County High School, across the road from the landfill where the waste was dumped. The rally’s aim is to draw attention to the issue and educate the public about what steps might be taken to remediate the problem.

The state Energy and Environment Cabinet is in “active discussions” with Advanced Disposal, owner of the landfill, relating to a notice of violation issued in March.

Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely said Thursday that the cabinet will seek public input into any agreed-upon enforcement order it reaches with Advanced Disposal.

“We respect the desire of citizens of Estill County to want to have a say in how the waste material in this landfill is handled,” Snavely said in a news release.

Further information on when and how the public can comment on and make recommendations to the draft order will be forthcoming, Snavely said.

The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services said Friday that monitoring and testing results have “showed no evidence” that the dumping led to “radioactive contamination above federal and state safety limits.”

In addition, preliminary results indicate that landfill workers “are not at risk for any negative outcomes,” the Cabinet’s release said.