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MADISON - A commercial sawmill operator has been ordered to pay a financial penalty for improperly burning wood wastes from his Vernon County sawmill operation, a violation of Wisconsin environmental enforcement laws. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said today that under the terms of the agreement settled in Vernon County, Emanuel Miller must pay a total of $10,000 in penalties and costs. Miller must also pay stipulated forfeitures of $4,000 if he burns commercial waste at any time during the next ten years.
The civil lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges that over the past four years, Vernon County and the State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have been working with county sawmill operators to find ways to dispose of waste wood and sawdust other than by open burning. The complaint alleges that Miller continued to burn waste unlawfully, even though he was advised open burning was illegal and was presented with legal disposal options and cost-sharing opportunities.
According to DNR, open burning of wood wastes, especially unseasoned wood such as that burned by Miller, causes large quantities of visible smoke emissions near ground level where the emissions are readily breathed by people. This smoke contains many hazardous chemicals and particulate matter that can be harmful to people breathing the smoke, especially those who suffer from asthma or other lung diseases.
Wisconsin law prohibits the open burning of wood wastes generated from a commercial operation unless the burning process is approved by DNR through a wood burning site license. State law also prohibits the incineration of solid waste without a license. Miller possessed no licenses to dispose of his wastes through open burning.
"The protection of Wisconsin's air quality is a critical responsibility of the Department of Natural Resources," Van Hollen said. "DOJ will continue to work with DNR to enforce air pollution and solid waste disposal laws."
The Department of Justice filed the lawsuit at the request of the Department of Natural Resources. Assistant Attorney General Diane L. Milligan prosecuted the case. Vernon County Circuit Judge Michael J. Rosborough approved the settlement.