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Black Oak Organics sued for clean water law violations

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Springfield-based Black Oak Organics LLC, CHP Environmental Inc., and owners Craig Post and Alan Chappell are facing a lawsuit for violations of the state’s clean water law.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed the action June 29 in Lawrence County Circuit Court.

The suit comes nearly a year after the Missouri Department of Natural Resources revoked Black Oak Organics' permit to operate its Verona composting facility, which recycles food and construction waste for sale as landscaping mulch and for erosion control. By request of the DNR, the Missouri Clean Water Commission in November referred the case to the Attorney General's Office.

During inspections at the Verona facility between 2007 and 2009, DNR found that storm water became contaminated with organic matter when it flowed over the company's compost piles, sawdust piles and asphalt shingles, according to a news release from Koster’s office. The allegations say that storm water containing leachate and sludge was discharging into a nearby tributary of Honey Creek, where it can seep into the groundwater table, according to the release and previous Springfield Business Journal reports. Leachate is water that collects contaminants as it trickles through wastes, pesticides or fertilizers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Koster said his office contacted the defendants with a proposed settlement agreement to resolve the violations, but the defendants refused to settle.

“The defendants were given the opportunity to correct violations of Missouri’s clean water laws,” Koster said in the release. “This office will aggressively pursue those who show disregard for our environmental laws.”

Black Oak Organics co-owner Post referred questions to Jim Arneson, the company’s Springfield-based attorney. Attempts to contact Arneson were unsuccessful.

Koster is asking the court to issue preliminary and permanent injunctions requiring the defendants to comply with the Clean Water Law; to assess a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 daily for each violation; and to require the defendants to pay court costs.

Black Oak Organics, formed by Chappell and Post in 2005, collects and composts organic waste such as construction materials, contaminated paper and cardboard from area restaurants, grocers, schools and manufacturers. The company then sells the resulting mulch and compost for landscaping and erosion control purposes. The owners have said their work decreases the greenhouse gases emitted at landfills.

The Springfield-Greene County Environmental Advisory Board honored Black Oak Organics with the Choose Environmental Excellence Award in April 2008.[[In-content Ad]]

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