The owner of the former Medford Plating building in Medford is appealing nearly $30,000 in state fines for failing to prove he's cleaned up hazardous materials he unwittingly inherited when he bought it two years ago.
The state Department of Environmental Quality issued a $29,417 civil penalty to Lake Oswego-based General Property Group LLC, whose registered agent is Kevin Curtin, state records show.
For more than a year, DEQ claims, the company failed to properly store and dispose of hazardous waste at the former Medford Plating building at 702 S. Grape St., a building next to the Tree Top plant that Curtin's company bought for $145,000 in November 2015.
While the company did properly dispose of thousands of pounds of hazardous materials at the building, it failed to get a permit for storing hazardous waste and has yet to prove it has cleaned up liquids and sludges in underground sumps on the property, the DEQ order states.
State law holds landowners responsible for properly storing and disposing of hazardous materials.
In an email to the Mail Tribune signed by "General Property Group LLC," the company denied aspects of the order, saying it did not know the prior owner was not in DEQ compliance at the time of purchase. The company also believes it has "fully complied" with all DEQ directives and has provided DEQ with all required documentation, the email states.
Curtin's group claims DEQ knew for five years that Medford Plating's former owner was out of DEQ compliance but did not act on it until after his group's purchase, the email states.
"Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, we stepped into a noncompliance situation," the email states.
"Although we did not create any of the waste, we have expended substantial resources and funds to remedying the situation."
DEQ spokeswoman Katherine Benenati said the DEQ order "lays out the facts as we know them," and that the appeals process will allow the company to lay out its case. If the owner presents new facts, "we’ll certainly consider those in considering whether to reduce the fine," Benenati said.
Benenati added that DEQ had not taken any enforcement actions at the Medford Plating property prior to last year.
The DEQ order refers to a copy of an Oct. 8, 2015, sales counter-offer from the previous owner to Curtin's company in which the seller declared there were hazardous substances on the property. However, there was no documentation in the DEQ order claiming Curtin's company knew he would be required to get a hazardous waste storage permit or that he would be required to dispose of the waste.
The civil penalty was issued in August, and Curtin has an informal meeting scheduled with DEQ officials Nov. 14, Benenati said.
Curtin's business has a Medford post-office box and a Lake Oswego mailing address filed with the Oregon Secretary of State's Office.
The Grape Street building was empty Monday afternoon.
DEQ officials inspected the property in August 2016 and discovered various chemicals used in metal plating stored inside and outside the building, including the outside sumps, the DEQ order states. During that inspection, a container of chromic oxide was leaking in the storage room, the order states.
Curtin's company was ordered Aug. 30, 2016, to clean it up and dispose of it properly and received four extensions to do it until DEQ denied a fifth extension in December 2016, the order states.
In March, the company gave DEQ proof that thousands of pounds of hazardous materials were removed and disposed of in a permitted disposal facility. The chemicals included 4,920 pounds of chromium, 755 pounds of hydrochloric acid solution and 158 pounds of sulfuric acid, the order states.
However, DEQ has not received any reports on cleanups of the sumps, the order states.
The company did not respond to questions about the discrepancies between the owner's claims and the DEQ order.