Some neighbors of a Milton junkyard claim the operation is breaking the law and sending heavy metal contaminants into the groundwater. They want it shut down. But the owner of ABC Salvage says he's done everything he was supposed to do.
ABC Salvage has been here since 1970. The original junkyard dates from the mid-1950s. Since then it has built up a sizable amount of recyclable metals -- and lots of tires. Well over a million tires, according to estimates.
Neighbor Lynn Caldwell complains that the scrap yard is polluting the area, including a pond behind her house. She and a few neighbors went to Superior Court, where Judge Matthew Katz ordered groundwater testing. A report on that has just come out.
"That states that there are elevated levels of PCBs," Caldwell said, "as well as arsenic, chromium, cadmium and lead in the sediment in the pond."
Scrap yard owner Gilbert Rhoades disagrees. He says the groundwater testing vindicates his claim that the scrap yard is not leaking dangerous levels of heavy metals. "In many cases, we're below level and some of them were extremely close," he said, "to the point where it has -- our belief is, no effect on anyone whatsoever."
The Agency of Natural Resources says the levels were high enough to raise concern, and ordered more testing. Meanwhile, Rhoades says he has taken steps to keep pollutants from running off -- such as removing battery acid and keeping old batteries carefully stored. He put in a fire lane as ordered by the town. And he says he's abiding by an order to get rid of two tractor-trailer loads of tires immediately.
The tires will be taken to a tire-burning power plant out of state.
Lynn Caldwell was not impressed. "He should be closed," she said. "He doesn't have a license -- and he hasn't had one in at least eight years."
Caldwell's lawsuit claims the scrap yard should be shut down for the lack of state and local licenses, which expired. Rhoades says even without licenses, his yard has been under scrutiny by the Agency of Natural Resources. He insists that ABC Salvage has gone the extra mile to abide by the rules.
"The cleanup idea, the hauling of material, it's no new game," Rhoades said. "And because we've always run it with a good conscience, our tests are bearing out what we're doing."
The town of Milton, the state, or the judge could order the scrap yard shut down, which is what the neighbors want. But that would leave taxpayers liable for millions of dollars in cleanup costs. A more likely scenario appears to be some kind of court-approved agreement to keep it open.
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