March 27, 2003
Posted at: 7:53 p.m. CST
OSCEOLA, Ark. -- Nearly a month after environmental specialists inspect practices at a Mississippi County business, residents claim the owner still isn't following state laws.
An Osceola resident called the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality in February to report that they thought Wally Elbeck was storing unauthorized materials at Arkansas Municipal Waste to Energy.
ADEQ inspectors are trying to find answers to many of Osceola residents' questions regarding Elbeck, and the chemicals and items stored inside his building.
"What's at the bottom of that pit that's down there as a warehouse," resident Glenda Hawkins said. "What's lurking in it, you know, what kind of dangers is it to the citizens."
"Syringes and the IV bags laying on the ground," Debbie Robertson said.
Elbeck is licensed to store and burn non-hazardous materials. However, ADEQ hazardous waste specialist Penny Wilson says an inspection March 4 and 5, found that he was stashing unauthorized materials in at least three drums.
"I've got the report," Robertson said. "Just the flash point alone makes it hazardous. You've got employees working in there that smoke, and if they're smoking around it. It doesn't take much to ignite."
Residents also believe what's inside the walls of the waste facility is hazardous to their health.
"It's an awful weird coincidence," Hawkins said. "It's awful weird that we have a place here that's had these hazardous chemicals plus the illnesses too."
No research has been done to see if there is a link between the site and any illness in the area. Elbeck was supposed to remove the drums that were deemed hazardous, as well as organize remaining containers for a follow-up inspection on March 31.
Wilson says Elbeck made an attempt to separate a portion of the barrels. Inspectors also took additional chemical samples. For now, the facility remains open, but Doug Szenher with ADEQ says that may change after they get the results from the second batch of samples.
"I feel like their inspections are good," Robertson said. "I'm disappointed in that with what hazards they know is there, that there's not someone at that warehouse monitoring it that knows what's going on."