(Host) The state has decided not to take enforcement action against the Omya Corporation for an Act 250 violation. An environmental activist has criticized the decision, saying officials have sidestepped their responsibility to uphold the law.
VPR’s John Dillon reports.
(Host) Omya is a multinational company that extracts calcium carbonate from marble. In Vermont, it disposes of the waste rock and tailings in an abandoned quarry in Florence.
Its 1977 Act 250 permit required it to file a report on its mine waste. The document was apparently never filed. Pat Moulton-Powden, the chairwoman of the state’s Natural Resources Board, says that’s a violation of the Act 250 permit. But Powden says the state decided not to take enforcement action.
(Moulton-Powden) “I felt that the failure to file a report didn’t rise to the occasion of needing to enforce.”
(Dillon) But Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment says it’s more than a technical violation. She says the permit required Omya to submit a detailed plan on how it would dispose of its mine waste. According to Smith, Florence residents are concerned that chemicals in the waste could damage groundwater.
(Smith) “So the fact that there was one condition, a permit condition in Act 250 that did regulate the waste, and it has never been complied with means the state has really failed to protect the environment and public health because the fact that there are so many chemicals in it.”
(Dillon) Omya counters that the Act 250 violation is a paperwork problem, not a serious infraction of environmental law. Company spokewoman Christie Harris:
(Harris) “The violation as stated by the Natural Resources Board is based on the failure, or the alleged failure, to file a report 25 years ago. So, substantive? No.”
(Dillon) Omya now wants to amend its Act 250 permit to expand its waste storage site.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.