The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

Dock debris burn raises questions

 


Editor's note: The following was presented at Monday's Seward City Council meeting.

Some of you may recall the illegal open burn that forced the closure of my business and drove me from my home on Nash Road in 2001. I remember it like it was yesterday.

After the epic investigation and lawsuit played out in the pages of the local newspaper I never imagined anything even remotely like it could occur in our community again. As a matter of fact that event inspired the creation of RBCA and ever since then we have striven to educate ourselves and the public on local conservation and compliance issues.

Even so, just a couple of weeks ago, an all-too-similar scene unfolded before our eyes in broad daylight. As in the 2001 fire, the folks in charge of this recent fire also failed to mention their intentions to burn items not listed in their permit applications. Also, as in the 2001 fire if their intention to burn anything other than unpainted, untreated woody debris had been revealed beforehand, the burn would not have been allowed. Just as in 2001 a local fire department official visited both fires on a number of occasions throughout the days-long fires but failed to notice or acknowledge that items other than unpainted, untreated woody debris were burned. In fact both allowed the obviously illegal burns to continue.

The parallels between fires continue into the aftermath and investigations. In both fires no one in charge admits any knowledge of unpermitted material being burned in spite of overwhelming physical evidence to the contrary. It took the EPA and FBI Environmental Crimes Units thousands upon thousands of dollars and two years, and the civil courts six years to sort it all out after the '01 fire.

I cannot fathom that the folks in charge who planned and managed this recent illegal burn with public funds through a city contract did not realize that burning treated lumber of any type is harmful to the environment and public health, and in fact illegal. This is remedial knowledge. The fact that DEC ordered this fire put out after realizing that they had been duped and that it was in fact treated lumber being burned and then to have that order blatantly ignored deserves further scrutiny and consequences.

Knowing that both the 2001 and 2014 illegal burns were organized and overseen by both a former Seward police chief and a Seward city councilwoman begs the question of whether there are different sets of rules and levels of enforcement for different folks in our community. In both instances there seems to have been a concerted effort to conceal their intentions and then afterwards to conceal what transpired.

Some of the differences are equally disturbing. It was actually a different former Seward police chief and a different Seward city councilwoman back then than it is now. And back in 2001 they burned garbage-filled vehicles and buildings, whereas in the recent fire they burned known-to-be chemically-treated dock timbers and allegedly RR ties.

Additionally, this most recent illegal burn was funded with our tax dollars and blessed by our local authorities. Even though the names and materials burned then and now are different, the pattern is awkwardly clear. This cavalier attitude towards regulations that the city often displays must end now.

 
 

Reader Comments
(2)

WELLWEDOCARE writes:

There are plenty lawful knowledgeable citizens in our community who understand that environmental regulations are in place to protect our most vulnerable citizens health and the environment for future generations. The rich and influential of our community already have plenty of councilmembers willing to represent them and routinely overlook and even defend their unlawful and damaging practices. Who besides RBCA will represent the rest of us? Everyone else is either silent or hurling insults.

WeDontCare writes:

Please just go away. We are all tired of the petty litigation and rants of the RBCA, they are a waste of time and money. RBCA does more harm than good to Seward and has little support of the common citizen. Thank you to everyone involved in our dock replacement project.

 
 
 

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