ASHLAND A 2019 car crash lawsuit has revealed a conspiracy to illegally dump contaminated soil at the Big Run Landfill, according to a recently amended complaint.
The lawsuit charges three environmental clean-up companies with civil conspiracy, fraud negligence. Two roadside assistance companies were also charged in the suit.
The complaint alleges Clean Harbors Environmental Services Inc. and Valicor Environmental Services, LLC knowingly sent a truckload of contaminated soil from Poca, West Virginia, to the landfill located in Ashland on May 15, 2019. After the truck experienced a blowout on I-64 near Milton, West Virginia, it experienced brake failure, the complaint states. Once it made its way to exit 181 in Kentucky, the complaint states its brakes failed again and slammed into a vehicle with two teenagers inside.
The amended complaint sheds light on why the 42,000-pound rollback truck continued its trek after already experiencing brake failure about 20 miles from where it left.
Clean Harbors was contracted with disposing soil contaminated by the Mountain Valley Pipeline project in Braxton County, West Virginia, a more than two-hour drive from Boyd County, the complaint states. The soil was dirtied with fracking fluid, which can include lead, radium, uranium, methanol, mercury, hydrocholoric acid and formaldehyde, according to the suit. Due to the nature of the waste, it needed to be tested prior to being dumped at any landfill, the suit further elaborates.
Initially, the load was stored by Safety-Kleen the suit states. Safety-Kleen nor Clean Harbors tested the soil, the complaint alleges.
At the time, the Big Run Landfill had an agreed order that prevented it from accepting any waste created in West Virginia outside of Cabell and Wayne counties, the suit noted. The landfill could also not accept any contaminated soil without a test being run on it first, according to the suit.
The suit alleges various companies cooked the books to keep the load legal on paper so the dump would accept it.
On May 15, 2019, driver Joel Rogers, of Charleston, West Virginia, picked up the dump truck in Nitro, West Virginia. The dump truck had a history of problems, according to the suit, with several blowouts, suspension issues and worn-down brake lines.
He drove up to the Clean Harbors/Safety-Kleen plant in Poca, where a container full of soil was loaded on his truck, according to the suit. A service record generated from the pick up showed Precision Pipeline — the contractor working on the pipeline in Braxton County — as the generator of the waste and the destination as the Green Valley landfill in Ashland, the suit alleges.
A different record shows Safety-Kleen as the generator of the waste and destination as Valicor, a waste company in Huntington, the lawsuit states.
Along the ride, Rogers experienced the blowout and air brake failure, according to the suit. After stopping at the overpass in Milton to decrease having the load inspected by authorities, the suit states two different outfits were sent to tie up the brake lines and replace the tire. The suit states they told Rogers the repairs were temporary. Having been told the same, Clean Harbors did not send a replacement truck or order a tow truck, but instead had Rogers continue with the haul, according to the complaint.
Having arrived at Valicor, Rogers received new paperwork, stating Valicor as the waste generator and the Big Run Landfill as the destination, the suit states. Since Valicor did not have an order standing with the landfill for fracking soil, the waste was listed as filter cakes, according to the suit. Valicor had an order standing with the dump for that type of waste, the suit states.
Rogers then proceeded to the landfill. By the time he reached the exit, the truck again experienced brake failure, but instead of pulling off on the side of the road, Rogers hurried to exit 181 in order to avoid being caught on the interstate with the load, the lawsuit states.
That’s when Rogers crashed into a pick up truck driven by Brandon Binion, with Alyssa Binion riding as a passenger. Brandon experienced a shattered leg, while Alyssa had internal hemorrhaging as a result of the crash, the complaint states. Both survived the crash.
Lexington-based attorney Sam Aguiar, who represents the plaintiffs, said lawsuit sheds light on shady practices by companies that undermine efforts by city residents who fought to reduce odor coming from the dump a few years ago.
“The residents of Ashland fought so hard for so long to clean that dump up and to find out these companies were doctoring documents to but waste there like that is appalling,” Aguiar said. “We’ve got two teenagers who are lucky to have survived. That truck shouldn’t have been close to Ashland in the first place.”
Attorneys for the defendants did not return requests for comment.
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