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Meduri Operation Faces Charges By Angry Neighbors

Local farm has history of environmental violations

POLK COUNTY -- Neighbors have filed a complaint against Meduri Farms, saying three Meduri buildings are commercial rather than agricultural.

Farmers David and Wayne Hiebenthal say the buildings are too big for an exclusive farm-use zone. Two of the buildings are 15,000 square feet.

Joe Meduri operates a fruit dehydrating plant off Highway 22 near Baskett Slough.

His neighbors, the Hiebenthals, took their case to the state Land Use Board of Appeals. LUBA members sent it back to the county level.

County officials say they are waiting for more information from Meduri and his attorney, Mark Shipman, before setting a hearing date.

Meduri already has county building permits for the three structures in question.

Meduri has been beset with problems in recent years. He agreed to two Department of Environmental Quality 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 now 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.

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