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Hazardous Trash Stored in Boat Stalls

September 17, 1990

SOUTHLAKE, Texas (AP) _ A hauler stored medical waste, human tissue and dangerous solvents at a boat marina and near a grocery store because he could not afford to dispose of the waste properly.

Former ball-bearing salesman Richard Kirkham said it was easy to become licensed to dispose of hazardous waste but more difficult to find places to store the refuse.

Kirkham’s Hazardous Waste Management Inc. stored 95 barrels of hazardous solvents, fuels and toxic chemicals at Scott’s Marina No. 2 on Lake Grapevine, authorities said. They also found said they 75 drums of chemical solvents and several cartons filled with used syringes, soiled dressings, surgical gloves and human tissue at Kirkham’s office and at a warehouse near a Fort Worth grocery store.

Kirkham was caught removing water-soaked cartons of medical debris from shoreline boat stalls last November, after the lake northeast of Fort Worth receded following a flood.

Dallas Water Utilities officials shut down a water treatment plant for two days last November before determining there was no evidence of contamination from the wastes.

The discovery triggered a three-state criminal investigation of Kirkham’s one-truck operation.

Kirkham has been fined $260, while it has cost $125,000 so far to clean up the boxes and barrels he stashed at the marina, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Sunday.

No evidence has been found that Kirkham’s illegal inventory polluted the environment, federal officials said.

A simple registration form made Kirkham one of the state’s 2,034 hazardous- waste transporters in 1986. His company went unwatched by state and federal regulators.

He wasn’t affected by the stringent rules imposed on licensed disposal sites that would have guaranteed that he had the money to destroy what he collected. Instead, he started the firm with a pickup and four weeks of training at Texas A&M University.

Kirkham said he never intended to run the business illegally. But his struggling operation was derailed when the sand-hauling truck he used to subsidize the fledgling waste-hauling business was wrecked. He used the money paid by waste producers to repair the sand truck instead of properly disposing of the waste.

″And the reason that we did it is that hope springs eternal in the breast of man,″ Kirkham told the Star-Telegram. ″We kept thinking things would get better.″

Kirkham said that when he could no longer afford to pay disposal fees, he forged records to convince his customers that their waste was reaching its destination.

In June, the Environmental Protection Agency notified 214 of Kirkham’s clients that they were potentially liable for his actions and billed each of them the full cost of storing and disposing of the waste found at the boat dock.

Among those notified were Texas A&M University, Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, the Navy, the Army Corps of Engineers and the First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Officials with the U.S. attorney’s office in Fort Worth confirmed in July they are continuing a criminal investigation of Kirkham and Waste Management that was started by the EPA in January.

The investigation has spread to Oklahoma and Louisiana, where records at licensed disposal sites conflict with manifests Kirkham supplied to customers showing waste had been delivered, investigators told the Star-Telegram.

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