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News Journal: DNREC targets repeat environmental offenders

Delaware taxpayers are out $8 million and growing, and the odds of a payback have dwindled as the state heads to an appeals board for its first environmental "chronic violator" declaration.

State regulators sought the designation for Maryland resident Michael P. Davidson and his business entities earlier this year, saying Davidson showed "willful neglect and reckless disregard" in accumulating more than 100,000 tons of construction and demolition waste and other material on fields well off Willow Grove Road in western Kent County.

Davidson operated the site under a recycling permit for four years, piling up wood, concrete, plastic and other scrap with little actual recovery of materials. The businessman ignored or "flouted" repeated state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control demands in 2012 and 2013 to set aside cleanup funds and keep out contaminated goods, prompting the company's permit suspension in April 2013, revocation three months later and "chronic violator" declaration in March.

Little has happened since beyond the padlocking of the site's gate and the start of contamination studies that could mean an expensive soil and groundwater cleanup, and yet another state-sanctioned recycling endeavor gone wrong. Local firefighters and DNREC contractors were called to the shuttered business in February, however, when part of the landfill began burning.

"We have not heard from anyone on Davidson's behalf, said Ralph K. Durstein III, a Department of Justice attorney who represents DNREC. "Several attorneys who have represented him in the past have made it very clear they're not representing him on this issue."

"The number one concern is the costs that have been incurred or are being incurred to stabilize, and we hope clean up, that property," Durstein said. "That's job one, to get reimbursed and undertake this massive cleanup job."

Davidson, who could not be reached, also has piled up a long list of sanctions and financial claims in nearby Goldsboro, Maryland, just 5 miles from the Delaware accumulation, at a site that the Maryland Department of the Environment branded an illegal dump last year.

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