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Appeals court upholds compost pollution penalty

An appeals court affirmed a judgment siding with a Clean Water Commission penalty against two Platte County farming and trucking companies.

Sultany Trucking and Sultany Farms challenged a $31,865 penalty for Missouri Clean Water Law violations, claiming on appeal that the CWC made mistakes in assessing the amount as well as its order to take action to remove contaminants from a water source.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources personnel visited the companies’ site, where a tributary flows into nearby Todd Creek, several times in 2018. They informed the trucking company owner, Michael Sultany, that he needed to move compost away from the site’s stormwater drainage ditch, install structures to divert stormwater discharge away from compost, and get a permit to operate compost as a water contaminant source.

By 2019, the site was still leaking compost material into the water and the DNR charged Sultany the penalty, assessing costs for pollution of the tributary and the creek it flows into. Sultany appealed to the administrative hearing commission, which upheld the order while recommending lowering the penalty to $22,699. The AHC agreed with Sultany that the facility responsiveness penalty score was ten points too high. The CWC reviewed the appeal and returned the penalty to its original amount.

On appeal before the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District, Judge Cynthia L. Martin favored the CWC’s opinion siding with the original amount.

“The CWC’s findings establish that Appellants were informed of their noncompliance and the need to correct determined violations on at least eight separate occasions, yet, the violations continued into May 2019,” Martin wrote.

Judges Thomas N. Chapman and Mark D. Pfeiffer concurred in the March 21 opinion.

The court also affirmed the CWC’s 25 points for noncompliance over the course of nearly eight months. It also determined the September 2020 order was issued within the two-year statute of limitation, which began after a Sept. 20, 2018 inspection identified the site as a water contaminant source.

It also found no issue in the CWC’s decision that the company was required to get a permit, though it noted that either the DNR or the CWC could relieve the companies of the permit requirement if they submitted proof that violations had stopped.

Rustin J. Kimmell of the Kimmell Law Firm in Burlington, Kansas represented the Sultany companies on appeal. He did not respond to a call requesting comment. Richard N. Groeneman from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office represented the state agencies. A spokeswoman for the AGO did not respond to an email requesting comment.

The case is Sultany Trucking and Sultany Farms v. Missouri Clean Water Commission and DNR, WD85445.

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