Osceola Waste Management Owner Claims Conspiracy

April 2, 2003
Posted at: 10:57 p.m. CST

OSCEOLA, Ark. -- A business owner and the City of Osecola have been battling in court for months over a waste-disposal facility that some claim is housing hazardous waste.

KAIT first reported about Wally Elbeck's Arkansas Municipal Waste to Energy company on March 27. At that time, Elbeck was unavailable for comment. He did however, choose to speak with KAIT Wednesday about what environmental inspectors say has been taking place at his business, and why Elbeck feels that he is a victim.

The gates at the entrance of Arkansas Municipal Waste to Energy are locked. As of March 28, the facility was closed for business. Elbeck was leasing this facility from the City of Osceola to incinerate the city's trash, as well as other non-hazardous materials and medical waste.

Back in November, the city took Elbeck to court for not paying rent on time. That's why he says he's no longer operating. Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality inspectors were recently at his other business site to inspect three drums of chemicals which were being stored inside.

"ADEQ was collaborating with the mayor to bring me down," Elbeck claims. "Yes. (ADEQ and the mayor) asked judge [sic] to shut me down. (They) could not shut me down for three drums."

"We have reason to believe there are chemicals that do meet hazardous standards for flammability," ADEQ Public Affair Manager Dennis Szenher said.

Both Szenher and Terry Burnett, Osceola's city finance officer deny those allegations.

"That is not the way that our agency operates," Szehner said.

"(Elbeck's claim) is ludacris. We don't have access to his equipment," Burnett said. He says the city asked for a court order to regain possession of the incinerator, and that  the accusations made by ADEQ factored into it being awarded.

Burnett says ADEQ representatives will be back in Osceola friday to determine if the incinerator is usable. They'll also explain to city leaders what they can and can't do with the remaining barrels on the property wally Elbeck was leasing.

As for the warehouse facility, Burnett says he doesn't know if inspectors will instruct the city to clean it up as well. If the city does have to pay for some, or all, of the cleanup, Burnett says that tax payers would likely have to foot that bill.