The executive assistant to the Environmental Management Commission said Tuesday hearing dates were set from March 28-29 for REEF, LLC. The governor-appointed commission is made up of seven members who oversee ADEM.
The order, based on ADEM inspectors’ findings, would require the owners of the REEF wastewater treatment facility near Sylacauga to take several actions. Included was the immediate removal and proper disposal of wastewater from two treatment basins that appeared to be leaking, according to their findings.
Attorney Thomas H. Brown submitted the written appeal to ADEM Nov. 20. In it, he requested a hearing for REEF based on the belief the action was “unconstitutional, illegal, an abuse of discretion, fundamentally unfair, incorrect, not factual and not based on legitimate engineering and scientific principles.”
The required actions placed an “unjustified” burden financially and put the jobs of REEF employees in jeopardy, according to the appeal. It also stated they believed the oversight commission should “rescind and cancel” the order.
ADEM spokesman Scott Hughes said the appeal process would be presided over by a hearing officer, who acts similar to a judge. The officer listens to testimony from attorneys for both sides and then renders a decision to the commission.
“(The commission) can then agree with the hearing officer, disagree or make modifications to what the hearing officer recommends,” Hughes said.
When asked about progress on any actions listed in the order, Hughes said he could not comment during the ongoing appeal process.
Findings noted in the Oct. 22 administrative order from ADEM reported the leak between two treatment basins at the REEF facility. Also reported was liquid seeping into nearby Shirtee Creek that appeared to originate from the plant, based on available information.
A letter in the report stated inspectors discovered several places where the liquid drained into the creek. The creek bed was stained “a dark black to purple color” and had a strong odor.
Along with the removal of water from the basins, the order would have required REEF officials to submit an engineering report for repairs to the basins in question within 30 days. Also in 30 days, they would submit a compliance plan for their permits from ADEM and a report of any effects on groundwater and soil and what actions would be needed to repair it.
REEF managing partner Kent Hall previously said he believed there were “inaccuracies” in the reports from ADEM inspectors.
After receiving the order, Hall said there was no evidence the runoff into the creek came from one of the plant’s basins. He said the locations where the liquid drained into the creek were not consistent with a leak from REEF.
Area residents have complained about odors believed to be coming from the REEF plant since March 2009. The owners of the plant previously received a fine of $72,000 from ADEM for violation of an air permit.
REEF disposed of treated water at the Sylacauga Utilities-owned J. Earl Ham Wastewater Treatment Plant until June. That month, the Sylacauga Utilities board of directors informed REEF management they would no longer accept treated water from the facility at their plant.
Hall reported then the REEF plant continued operation but was not taking in more wastewater.
Contact Matt Quillen at firstname.lastname@example.org.