Turner, ME - The owner of a junkyard on the Nezinscot River illegally threatened Department of Environmental Protection inspectors with violence, according to a petition filed today by Maine PEER.The organization is asking the Androscoggin County District Attorney to initiate a criminal investigation into the matter.
DEP investigators have been reluctant to examine pollution and wetlands violations on the site because its owner,Eugene Jordan, repeatedly threatens to shoot state employees who enter his property. In a July, 2001 memo obtained by Maine PEER, one DEP officer wrote, "I am reluctant to act on this one out of concern for my personal safety . . .Mr. Jordan likes to waive a gun around. I am not interested in getting in his vicinity even with law enforcement as an escort."
Maine statutes prohibit the obstruction of government duties though the use of "force, violence or intimidation," but a file search conducted by PEER turned up no evidence that the state ever pursued criminal charges against Jordan.
For years, neighbors have complained that the junkyard has been allowed to contaminate the Nezinscot River with gasoline and the and surrounding wetlands with antifreeze and petroleum. The junkyard is in neighborhood zoned for residential homes, yet municipal officials have continually tolerated dozens of cars and parts leeching pollution into the aquifer, even though these operations violate local zoning laws.
Last year, when Jordan finally permitted state inspectors onto his property, the investigation led to the removal of 1,137 tons of soil at a cost of more than $150,000 to Maine taxpayers. DEP has declined to bill Jordan for the cleanup, and the only follow-up investigation this year was rushed, turning up little evidence of violation. DEP internal memos indicate that employees feared taking enforcement action against Jordan at all. As one complained, "It is feared that any DEP action that unduly upsets him may cost us his cooperation. There is concern for the safety of DEP staff and contractors if his cooperation is lost."
"We can't selectively enforce the law just to appease bullies," stated Maine PEER Director Tim Caverly, whose organization has also documented enforcement discrepancies within the state's Department of Conservation and Land Use Regulatory Commission."This is not the Wild West and no property owner has the right to pollute the public's waters."
The Nezinscot River is listed as a "wetland of special significance" under Maine law.