Tuesday, February 5, 2002
DALLAS -- Joe Meduri has reached a compromise with the Department of Environmental Quality.
The owner of Meduri Farms was ordered to pay two fines -- one for $92,838 and another for $11,800 -- for letting waste from his cherry operation seep into neighboring property.
DEQ officials charged the fines last summer. Meduri immediately appealed. As a result of the appeal, the largest of the two fines has been knocked down.
Meduri must now pay $23,552 on that fine.
The total fine for both DEQ violations not totals $31,352.
In agreeing to the reduced fine, Meduri waived all rights to appeal the decision.
The fines were imposed because, according to DEQ investigators, Meduri let wastewater from one of his cherry processing plants leak into Rickreall Creek and Baskett Slough.
Most of the fines were for polluting the water. The rest was for not telling DEQ about the problem.
DEQ investigators said wastewater from Meduri's cherry processing plant at 700 N. Fir Villa Road in Dallas polluted Rickreall Creek.
Robert Dicksa, a natural resource specialist with the DEQ, said Meduri applied too much of the wastewater from his facility to the property.
It seeped into neighboring farmers' land and, through a series of private streams, into Rickreall Creek.
Wastewater from Meduri's other processing operation, at 12395 Dyck Road, seeped into the Baskett Slough wildlife refuge.
DEQ investigators say wastewater was running into ditches along the side of the road.
From there, it flowed into the wetlands of the nearby wildlife refuge.
Orange-colored wastewater accumulated on the pond banks, investigators said. The wastewater drains the oxygen in the water, ultimately hurting the Canada dusky geese and other wildlife that depend on the wetlands.
DEQ investigators didn't consider all factors, Meduri said.
Meduri said the discharge happened after a fire destroyed a fruit-drying building in March.
Meduri Farms has a history of fines.
In 1997, the company was fined $7,866 for discharging wastewater from its cherry processing into the refuge without a permit.
Meduri didn't appeal that fine. He agreed to make monthly payments and got the necessary permits for waste water from DEQ.
The fine just imposed have also been broken down into monthly payments. Meduri has until Jan. 21 to pay $8,100. Another $8,100 is due by April 21. Subsequent installments are due July 21 and Oct. 21.