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EPA, defendants reach agreement to settle suit for site clean-up costs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with seven local defendants to recover response costs for remediating the Cherry Pit Drum Superfund site located on three properties in the City of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Charles counties.

Along with a civil complaint filed last week in federal court in Baltimore, the U.S. Department of Justice has attached a proposed consent decree signed by the seven named defendants: Philip Katz; Arthur C. Isenhart and his Authorized Trailer Service Inc.; Bernard D. Bailey and his Southern Maryland Trailer Rental Inc.; and Glen E. Shepke and his A-1 Storage Trailer Inc.

But the government has asked the court not to sign the proposed consent decree just yet, in order to allow a 30-day period for public comment. The Department of Justice is required to publish a notice in the Federal Register soliciting such comment.Little choice

Isenhart’s lawyer, Richard M. Karceski, said the difficulty and enormous potential expense of litigating such cases leaves defendants little choice but to try to negotiate settlements.

“This is the kind of case where you really have no defense,” said Karceski. “But Isenhart is clearly the minnow of the bunch.”

The government action was filed on behalf of U.S. EPA in enforcement of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (Superfund).

According to the complaint, in May 1992, Katz, then vice president of Magnetics Inc., a now-defunct manufacturer of specialized paper products, arranged to lease trailers from Bailey and Southern Maryland Trailer to store drums containing hazardous chemicals used or once used in Magnetics’ manufacturing processes.

After looking into the costs of proper disposal, “Katz decided to dispose of [these chemicals] off-site in the trailers,” the government alleges.

Magnetics leased one trailer from Bailey’s company, and Bailey arranged for Magnetics to lease four more trailers from Shepke, a leasing agent for Midlantic Trailer Inc.

Shepke in turn hired Isenhart to take the four trailers to Magnetics’ facility on Preston Street in East Baltimore, according to the complaint.

“When [EPA officials] left, they left all their contaminated disposable protective gear in big bags on his property.”-Richard M. Karceski

Bailey next arranged for the five drum-filled trailers to be stored on a lot at a meat company on Annapolis Road.

By May 1993, Magnetics was experiencing financial difficulties and stopped paying rental and storage on the five trailers. The Bank of Baltimore stepped in as Magnetics’ main creditor, and hired Katz’s father, George Katz, to liquidate the company. However, George Katz said he had no authority to take back the trailers or to pay past storage and rental invoices, the government says.Held for payment

The five trailers then changed hands several times as they moved around the area, with three of them ending up in Isenhart’s hands to repair.

Karceski said that Isenhart held the trailers after they were repaired because he had not been paid in full for his work.

Maryland Department of the Environment was called in after police noted drums in poor condition while investigating a claim of stolen property at Isenhart’s facilities on Cherry Hill Road in Baltimore. Despite a warning from MDE, Isenhart moved the trailers to an A-1 lot on Pittman Road in Anne Arundel County, where a fourth trailer was already located. The fifth trailer was found on Old Washington Road in Waldorf.

The EPA began an emergency investigation at MDE’s request.

While the government and the defendants have been negotiating for several years, Karceski says his client has been cooperative.

Isenhart even helped EPA officials suited in disposable protective clothing to unload the drums from the trailers, Karceski said.

“And when they left, they left all their contaminated disposable protective gear in big bags on his property,” Isenhart’s lawyer said. “It’s like something right out of Laurel and Hardy.”