116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A Marengo company whose workshop exploded and caught fire Dec. 8 failed to meet a state deadline Friday for filing a report about how owners plan to clean up the area, which state regulators called a “clear threat to public health and the environment.”
“The department did not receive the environmental site assessment plan by the deadline contained in the emergency order,” Tammie Krausman, spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said Friday evening. ”The department will pursue further legal action regarding this matter.“
An emergency order Dec. 15 gave C6-Zero until 5 p.m. Friday to submit the written report explaining sources of contamination and plan for cleanup. The order also stipulated that C6-Zero must implement all requirements of the plan within 45 days of the order.
The order notes regulators may impose civil penalties of up to $5,000 per day for solid waste violations and water quality violations and up to $10,000 per day for air quality violations.
Krausman said Friday she didn’t know whether the Iowa DNR would charge daily penalties right away and if so, which fines would apply or who would decide. She said she planned to provide more information next week.
C6-Zero describes itself as a recycler of used asphalt shingles, with founder Howard Brand III attempting to use a proprietary solvent to dissolve the shingles into component parts of oil, sand and fiberglass.
The Marengo plant, which opened in 2020 and had about 30 employees, still was in a pilot phase Dec. 8 when liquid solvent in a tank exploded and started a fire. Between 10 and 15 people were treated for injuries at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and neighbors living near the facility were briefly evacuated.
Mark Corallo, a C6-Zero consultant and spokesman, did not return an email and voice message Friday.
The Iowa DNR first talked with C6-Zero officials in May 2021, when Brand and another employee told the state their plan was to “reverse manufacture” shingles, the order states. They asserted they were not subject to Iowa’s solid waste or other environmental regulations.
Colorado and Texas officials told The Gazette earlier this month about environmental concerns they had there with Brand under his company’s previous names of Brand Technologies and BrandLich Holdings.
Iowa DNR officials visited the Marengo site several times, but never saw stockpiles of singles that had been problems elsewhere. But on April 7, Iowa DNR staff attempted to visit C6-Zero and were denied entry, according to the order, A tour scheduled for Nov. 9 was halted midway and state officials were not allowed to see the full facility, the agency reported.
Since the explosion, Iowa DNR staff have had access to the burned and waterlogged building, where they saw “multiple large ankle-deep pools” of oily substance and missing walls and ceiling portions suggesting the building isn’t stable, the order states.
“Inside the building are large quantities of unknown chemicals in buckets, barrels, and gas tanks, along with big piles of loose, crushed shingles, all of which are exposed to wind, rain, and changing temperatures,” the order states. Water samples taken from nearby waterways show evidence of pollution from the site, the agency reported.
Corallo told The Gazette Dec. 19:
“Within 24 hours of the containment of the fire at C6-Zero ‘s Marengo facility, crews were in place and had launched environmental mitigation and site cleanup. These efforts were fully in line and in compliance with IDNR’s request made public on Friday, Dec. 16, including, the property being secured and protected and multiple environmental cleanup mitigation measures referenced in the order.
“C6-Zero is moving to address all IDNR requests and the company is working directly and fully cooperating with IDNR and OSHA on all matters,” he said then. “ … (E)mployees seeking to earn extra income were offered the opportunity to participate in clean up efforts, which were voluntary and unrelated to their regular wages and benefits.”
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