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OCAS pays full $50K for violations
OXFORD — The Oxford County Agricultural Society (OCAS) has agreed to pay $50,000 in fines to the state on behalf of all parties – OCAS, Suzanne and Rupert Grover and McGee Construction – to resolve environmental violations that took place at Oxford Fairgrounds in 2010.
The parties signed a consent agreement with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in late May and OCAS submitted a $40,000 check to the state with the signed agreement.
Ten thousand dollars of the fine amount will be suspended specifically so OCAS can apply for an after-the-fact stormwater permit for the racetrack at Oxford Fairgrounds – the agreement required OCAS to submit its application by May 31.
Because the agreement involves violations of the federal Clean Water Act, it is required to be posted on the DEP website for 30 days for public comment.
After 30 days, it will be passed on to the DEP commissioner – along with any comments – for final review before going to the Attorney General's Office for final signature.
DEP spokesperson Samantha DePoy-Warren says that the DEP is satisfied with the outcome of the agreement.
"Our goal is to bring the site into compliance," DePoy-Warren said.
According to DePoy-Warren, the size of the fine was reduced over the course of the negotiations as work efforts to stabilize the site were completed.
"That corrective action was considered when negotiating the final penalty," she said.
Still not filed
However, this week, DePoy-Warren said that OCAS hasn't yet filed a stormwater permit application with DEP.
Because the agreement has not yet been finalized, no commitments have been violated, but DePoy-Warren still expressed worry over the lack of action.
"[It] is concerning that they haven't taken any corrective action," she noted, "especially given how the department facilitated them doing so with the penalty reduction."
OCAS President Jackie Young says the organization was satisfied with the outcome of the agreement and was finalizing the stormwater permit application.
Young blames the delay in filing on a miscommunication between herself, OCAS attorney John Geismar and E.S. Coffin, the environmental engineering firm.
According to Young, Coffin was unaware the application needed to be filed by May 31, but after speaking with the firm she is confident the application would be filed by the end of the week.
"It's not finalized until I complete the application and give him [Coffin] back the application," she said. "So he's waiting for me to mail him back the application, and then I think it's finalized."
Despite the size of the fine, Young said that the OCAS had anticipated the cost and included the amount in its budget.
She did not think the fine would substantially impact the society's activities.
"We're going to be okay," says Young. "We knew that [the fine] was coming, so we already had that budgeted."
According to Young, OCAS was given some donations to help cover the cost of the fines.
She implied that McGee Construction helped pay some of it but would not say for certain who the other donors were.
The violations occurred two years ago and the parties have been working on resolving the matter since then.
According to DePoy-Warren, that length of time is fairly common for this type of case.
"This is not an unusual passing of time for the enforcement process," she said, "especially given the fact that there were so many different parties."
In May 2010, DEP inspectors found that 16.5 acres of freshwater wetlands had been disturbed while the Oxford Fairgrounds were prepared for the Nateva Music Festival.
Some 4,870-square-feet of wetlands were filled and 58,610-square-feet were clear-cut at the time.
In June 2010, DEP inspectors reported the un-permitted construction of a bridge between the fairgrounds and land owned by the Grovers.
The destruction of the wetlands and bridge construction caused soil run-off to flow downstream, clouding the waters of Cold Water Brook and raising complaints from landowners.
The installation of proper erosion-control devices at the site finally stabilized the area in late August 2010.