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Case smoldering over burning of railroad ties.

Byline: Dylan Darling The Register-Guard

COTTAGE GROVE - Where there's smoke there's fire, and where there's fire there just might be burning railroad ties.

The Lane Regional Air Protection Agency received a citizen complaint about noon on Dec. 15 that Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad workers were burning a pile of railroad ties along the railroad line just south of Cottage Grove. The issue of the illegal fire has smoldered into the summer, with the railroad not paying the $825 fine that LRAPA levied.

The agency imposed the fine after finding that the railroad violated burning rules.

"At no time may the open burning of railroad ties be conducted," LRAPA compliance officer John Morrissey wrote in a notice of civil penalty he signed in early May.

It's somewhat uncommon for LRAPA to cite an international corporation for illegal burning of waste material. Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad is owned by publicly traded railroad giant Genessee & Wyoming Inc. Mostly, local violators of LRAPA's ban on the burning of railroad ties, plastic, roofing shingles and other such material are residents or small businesses.

The railroad didn't pay the fine within 10 days, nor did it challenge the fine, so LRAPA put a lien on Central Oregon & Pacific property in Lane County, meaning the railroad must pay the fine before selling any of its holdings in the county.

Although someone at Central Oregon & Pacific signed for certified letters from LRAPA earlier this year, officials with the railroad seemed surprised when contacted last week by The Register-Guard about the fine.

"(The railroad's general manager) just learned of the fine yesterday, and it is going to be paid promptly," said Tom Ciuba, a spokesman for Genessee & Wyoming Inc.

The Connecticut-based corporation bought Central Oregon & Pacific in 2012 and owns or leases 122 freight railroads around the world.

Central Oregon owns 305 miles of track, with its main line running from Springfield through Cottage Grove to Black Butte in Northern California.

LRAPA regulates the burning of petroleum-treated woods, such as railroad ties, and other material "which normally emits dense smoke, noxious odors, or hazardous air contaminants," Morrissey wrote in his May letter.

About an hour after LRAPA received the complaint on Dec. 15, Morrissey was next to the small pile of burning railroad tie pieces, along the tracks that parallel Highway 99.

He found two railroad workers tending the fire and preparing to leave. He noted in the letter that they were not burning full railroad ties.

"I advised the (railroad) employees that at no time may the open burning of ties be conducted and that on this day all open burning was prohibited," he wrote.

They put the fire out, according to Morrissey.

State rules require treated wood, such as railroad ties, to go to a landfill that accepts the material.

Still up in the air: Why was Central Oregon & Pacific burning railroad tie pieces?

"It's a good question," said LRAPA compliance/enforcement coordinator Colleen Wagstaff.

Follow Dylan on Twitter @DylanJDarling. Email

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Title Annotation:Air Pollution; A global giant fails to pay an $825 fine imposedby LRAPA after an incident near Cottage Grove
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:Jul 2, 2017
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