By Linda Cicoira — Lance G. Fisher, who dumped an estimated 120 tons of trash, including more than 100 tires, on his property on Shad Landing Road in Sanford last year, will not have to pay the $13,500 fine proposed by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
He “claimed an inability to pay,” filled out the appropriate form and was granted the waiver. During one visit to the site, according to a DEQ investigation report, Fisher “arrived driving a dump truck labeled ‘Fishers Environmental.’” His son, Lance Fisher Jr., is an owner of that Maryland company, which advertises on its website as providing services in asbestos abatement, mold remediation, lead paint abatement, demolition services, water damage restoration, fire damage restoration, duct cleaning, air quality control, wet crawl space solutions, hazardous material clean-up and emergency response.
“The consent order was signed by Lance G. Fisher in his personal capacity, not on behalf of the company,” Russell Deppe, Enforcement Specialist Senior II with DEQ, said this week. “As such, the “inability to pay” application was evaluated based on his personal financial information. … Due to the confidential nature of the information submitted by Mr. Fisher, the documents that led to the inability to pay determination are not available for disclosure.”
“What we pursued was (removal of) the waste on that site,” Deppe continued. “He just accumulated this. He said that it was his and he had just gathered it up over time. He removed all the solid waste appropriately. … The site is back in compliance. … Our goal is not to bankrupt someone.”
Deppe said a model obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was used to determine his inability. Tipping fees, totaling $8,303 and charged by Accomack’s Northern Landfill for bringing the debris there, were taken into consideration when the waiver was granted.
“In this situation, I’m actually very pleased,” Deppe said, adding, he runs into other situations across the state in which violators refuse to clean up their sites.
Fisher signed the consent order Feb. 1. It was notarized by Lionel Fisher, another principal in the Maryland environmental company.
An interagency memorandum states, “The applicant’s sole source of income is his monthly retirement benefit from social security, therefore, at this time, it is concluded that the applicant is unable to pay the penalty amount in question. In the event the applicant’s financial condition improves, the department may reevaluate this conclusion.”
According to county records, Fisher owns parcels in Sanford assessed at a total of about $300,000. He owes back real estate taxes from 2016 of $193.88 and from 2017 of $2,071.26.
Accomack Supervisor Paul Muhly, who pushed for the investigation after coming upon a fire at the site during a routine drive of his district early last year, is not happy with the outcome. “I’m very disappointed that he gets off the hook so easily,” Muhly said. “Just him taking the material to the landfill, which he should have done in the first place, is no penalty,” the supervisor added.
“I thought there was a clear violation, between the dumping and the Chesapeake Bay Act” regulations, Muhly decided the first time he saw the trash piled at the site from which the nearby waterway can be viewed. At that time, he saw metal, lumber, drywall pieces and a few tires. “Trash that belonged in the landfill, not in that location,” Muhly said.
He started asking around and learned it had been going on for a long time. That didn’t settle quite right with him. On May 4, 2017, he took a detour when going to visit someone in Saxis. As he went down the dead-end Shad Landing Road, “the amount of trash was 10 times and tires — dozens easily — were burning and not just smoking. They were burning with flames,” he said.
Muhly called 9-1-1. Deputy Tom Willett, of Accomack’s Code Enforcement Division, was nearby and responded to the scene. He, in turn, called for firefighters. It was May 4, 2017.
The next day, Willett sent photos of the site to DEQ. On May 9, Willett returned with two DEQ officers. While the three were there, Fisher Sr. drove up in a dump truck with more debris, the supervisor said. “Stuff,” Muhly said he had gotten from Chincoteague.
During the visit, according to a DEQ investigation report, Fisher arrived in the company dump truck. Fisher told the officers “he had dumped the material (there) because it was his property.”
In August, another complaint was made about debris — pieces of concrete block and charred wood at the waterfront about .28 miles from the first dump site and at the end of the road at Fisher’s former oyster house.
“Fisher indicated that this material was from the demolition of a structure on the property and that it would be properly disposed of along with” the waste at the first site, according to the consent order.
Fisher violated four sections of state code, the order stated. On Nov. 9, DEQ staff inspected the properties and found the issues had been corrected. Fisher was presented the consent order on Nov. 6. He claimed an inability to pay on Nov. 9. He filled out the proper forms through DEQ’s Office of Financial Responsibility & Waste Programs on Nov. 20. About a month later, the office accepted his claim.
Muhly’s constituents have told him about ponds on Fisher’s property being used as dumping grounds for old cars and other debris. Deppe said a complaint has not been filed. Muhly plans to file the complaint.