Northern Minnesota business owner and property owner assessed more than $1 million for environmental cleanup costs and penalties

Dale Cich, Diane C. Anderson and J & D Services of Northern Minnesota, Inc., must pay more than $1 million dollars for environmental violations and related clean-up costs, under a decision from the Minnesota State Appeals Court which recently upheld a lower court’s ruling in favor of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

As a result, the Cich, Andersion and J & D Services must pay a civil penalty of $677,072 and reimburse the state $316,035 for waste cleanup and disposal and $67,000 in attorney’s fees.  This is the seventh-largest civil penalty in the MPCA’s history and fourth-largest for waste violations.

Cich and J&D Services operated a fuel recycling business in Aurora, Minnesota, but closed it in the early 2000s and abandoned approximately 30,000 gallons of hazardous and non-hazardous waste on that property. Anderson acquired the property where the waste was located shortly thereafter as part of a separate business deal with Cich.

After years of unsuccessful attempts to have Cich, Anderson and J&D Services voluntarily clean up the abandoned waste, MPCA filed a complaint in the district court. After being sued, Cich, Anderson and J & D Services signed a Consent Decree agreeing to remove the waste by late 2013 but they did not comply.

Because Cich, Anderson and J & D Services failed to comply, site conditions deteriorated to the point where the MPCA declared an emergency and used public funds to properly dispose of the waste. The agency then asked the district court to require Cich and Anderson to pay a civil penalty for failing to comply with the Consent Decree and reimburse the state for cleanup costs. The district court agreed, set the civil penalty and added the attorney fees to the state’s reimbursement costs.

In early 2017, the Minnesota Court of Appeals heard the parties’ case and upheld the district court’s civil penalty and state reimbursement decision.  The district court subsequently awarded the MPCA an additional $90,345 for the agency’s emergency waste removal from the Aurora site.

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