The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued a $12,236 fine to Kruse Farms for burning plastic material on Feb. 24, 2020.

Kruse Farms owner Jeff Kruse told The News-Review on Tuesday he is challenging the amount of the fine. While he said the material was burned, he disputes the DEQ’s allegations about harm to humans or the Umpqua River.

Kruse said the material DEQ’s talking about is Reemay cloth placed over the top of a crop during the spring to increase the ground temperature so the plants can grow more vigorously.

It was used to cover sugar beets being grown essentially as seedlings to sell to a sugar beet grower in Eastern Oregon.

The DEQ said the landscape fabric is composed of open-weave polyester, and that burning it could create noxious odors and create health hazards for the young, the elderly and people with respiratory diseases.

According to the DEQ’s Notice of Civil Penalty Assessment and Order, the fire burned 233 cubic yards of material and Douglas County Fire District No. 2 responded to the fire.

The burning of the material is a Class I violation, it said.

The DEQ also said the burn took place 200 feet from the Umpqua River, creating a risk of ash being discharged into the river.

However, it noted that Kruse Farms did remove the ash and unburned landscape fabric away from the riverbank, making it less likely that debris would enter the river.

Kruse said it was a clean fire and burned a half a mile from any homes.

“It wasn’t close to anybody,” he said.

As for the alleged river impact, Kruse said the location of the fire wasn’t in a place that the river is likely to reach, except during a 100-year flood.

“Where the fire was, the only time the river’s been there is in 1964,” he said.

Kruse said erosion from rainfall would move any remaining material back toward the field, rather than toward the river. He also said burning is preferable to placing the material into the county landfill, where it would stay forever.

“I’m not disputing the fact that there was a violation, what I’m disputing at this point in time is the size of the penalty,” he said.

A $12,236 fine would be a significant hit, he said.

“That hurts a lot. We’re a big operation, but the last couple of years have not been that good for us,” he said.

As with many businesses, Kruse Farms has seen reduced traffic at its market during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said he believes he’ll be able to reach an agreement with the DEQ over what in his view would be a more reasonable penalty.

“I don’t think the DEQ’s trying to put people out of business,” he said.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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(4) comments

Mike

This makes absolutely no sense to me. Burning plastic in an oxidation reaction resulting in carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and water. Burying the plastic in a waste disposal site (dump) is actually worse. While same oxidation reaction (decomposition) occurs underground, it occurs much slower because there is less oxygen underground. Moreover, a significant amount of methane (greenhouse gas) is generated when the material decomposes underground because there is less oxygen. Burying plastic underground ensures future generation get to enjoy the results of today's garbage.

Most of Europe has zero waste disposal sites. They either recycle their garbage or safely incinerate it to make electricity while capturing the pollutants. The technology has been available for over 40 years.

NJ

I think your key words are 'safely incinerate'. If someone is burning a pile of plastic that floats in the air allowing for others to breath it in, they effectively have coated their lungs with plastic. Here's a quick look-see, "Among the many chemicals created while burning plastics are dioxin and furan. When these highly toxic chemical compounds are inhaled, instant reactions are observed like coughing, shortness of breath and dizziness. Long-term exposure has also been reported to be capable of leading to cancer." Burned in a hot closed stove on high heat it isn't as easy to breath in as heat rises up and away. It doesn't do much but increase the giant hole in our ozone layer though.

Mike

And what do you think happens when the same plastic decomposes in the ground?

NJ

Oops, didn't see this Mike. To answer your question, I think the same thing happens only much more slowly once it's covered with soil, even more slowly than when it winds up in the ocean where it gets pounded into an oily slick. There's no real answer for plastic. And in the beginning it made a bunch of people a big bunch of money cementing its existence. I really do believe it would be more cost effective to just put it all in rockets on trajectories toward the sun, get it off the planet.

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