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Records: Marengo recycler had earlier environmental problems
C6-Zero spokesman says solvent tanks registered, but state says no
A shingle recycler whose Marengo plant exploded last week, injuring up to 15 people — including himself — ran into problems with regulators and residents when he tried out his idea in other states, records and interviews show.
Howard Brand III, owner of C6-Zero, has a pending U.S. patent application for a process to use a proprietary chemical solution to dissolve spent asphalt shingles into base ingredients, including oil, sand and fiberglass. Brand, under names including C6-Zero, Brand Technologies and BrandLich Holdings, has operated in Texas, Colorado and Idaho in addition to the C6-Zero manufacturing site in Marengo, records show.
The Marengo plant, which opened in 2020 and had about 30 employees, was still in a “pilot program phase” Dec. 8 when liquid solvent in a tank exploded and started a fire in the building. 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.
A GoFundMe campaign for Cody Blasberg, a father and C3-Zero employee, said he “took the brunt of the explosion” and was severely burned and in critical condition in the days after the blast. The campaign had raised nearly $11,000 of a $25,000 goal by Thursday.
“The founder and CEO Howard Brand was injured,” Mark Corallo, a consultant working with C6-Zero, told The Gazette. Brand was driven by private car to a hospital, where he was treated for his injuries and released, Corallo said.
“Howard still is recovering and won’t be making any calls,” Corallo said.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality fined BrandLich Holdings LLC, for which Brand is listed as a managing member, $27,500 in 2019 for unauthorized disposal of solid waste in Elmendorf, Texas, a city of 2,000 near San Antonio, in 2017.
“Alleged that the facility is bringing in asphalt shingles and processing them,” the record states. “Asphalt shingles are soaked in an orange oil extract and the byproduct is sold as a commodity. The facility has dug a lined pit in which to place the shingles/orange oil mixture. Alleged dust and odor from the facility.”
BrandLich failed to get authorization from the state to store, process or dispose of waste at the site, the report states.
BrandLich has since paid the penalty and has closed up shop in Elmendorf, but “removal of waste has not been completed and additional enforcement is ongoing,” Gary Rasp, an agency spokesman wrote in an email Thursday to The Gazette.
By 2019, Brand had moved his operations to Windsor, Colo., a city of nearly 40,000 between Greeley and Fort Collins, under the name of Brand Technologies.
The Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment inspected the company Aug. 22, 2019, and issued a compliance advisory, Laura Dixon, agency spokeswoman, said in an email.
“After the inspection, the division informed the operator that asphalt shingles are unfortunately not a recyclable material, so the operator is in violation of the Solid Waste Act and regulations,” Dixon said in the email to The Gazette. “The Brand Technologies site was operating without environmental protections in place, such as a liner or other solid waste best management practices.”
The agency told Brand not to accept more shingles until he had proper permits. Officials again discussed permitting requirements during a Sept. 9, 2019, visit to the site.
“Mr. Brand told the division that he found a property in Florence, CO. where he would like to process asphalt shingles into usable products,” Dixon said. Florence is a city of about 4,000, southwest of Colorado Springs.
The agency told Brand he needed to submit an engineering plan and get approval from the new county before starting this process. Brand said he would get a certificate required to transport waste, but did not, Dixon said. Inspectors discovered 20 to 30 rail cars filled with shingles at the Florence site on Oct. 19, 2019, Dixon said.
“Importing waste prior to receiving approval is a clear violation of the Solid Waste Act,” she said. “Ultimately, Mr. Brand decided to pursue his asphalt shingle recycling business in another state.”
When The Gazette asked Dixon whether Brand was cited or if the Colorado site was cleaned up, she did not immediately respond.
Earlier this year, C6-Zero opened shop in northern Idaho, a development criticized in an Aug. 11 letter to the editor in the Bonner County Daily Bee.
“Their owner, Howard Brand, is intending to store the waste materials at the on-site, and return byproducts, one of which he claims will be high grade refined oil,” Suzanne Glasoe, of Sandpoint, wrote, saying she feared shingle recycling would hurt the nearby Kootenai River.
Tim Dore, chief legal officer for C6-Zero, replied in the Daily Bee Aug. 18 that the company had opened an office in Sandpoint, a city of 9,000 in northern Idaho, and a metal fabrication shop in Bonners Ferry, a city of 2,500 further north.
“There are no plans for a manufacturing facility in Bonners Ferry or anywhere else in Idaho,” Dore wrote.
“C6-Zero operates a manufacturing facility in another state, which from used roofing shingles produces clean fiberglass, aggregate and petroleum that becomes a high-grade biofuel. We are well past R & D and have met with all appropriate regulators in the state, just as we have engaged with regulators here in Idaho and continue to do so.”
It’s unclear whether Dore’s letter is referring to the Marengo facility. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources said it was in “discussions with C6-Zero to learn about the manufacturing processes used and what environmental regulations may apply” before the Dec. 8 fire. The department and local emergency responders said they had been trying to get information about the liquid solvent that caught fire.
Corallo, the C6-Zero spokesman, said in an email Brand had given local and state officials who visited the facility Nov. 9 “the opportunity to view the relevant documentation required to be held on site including the Safety Data Sheets (SDS), which include the chemicals stored at the facility.”
“While the chemicals themselves are common, C6-Zero’s chemical mixture is a proprietary trade secret,” he said.
Marengo Police Chief Ben Gray said this week his department was investigating why sprinklers, fire alarms and hydrants at the plant were not functioning during the fire.
Corallo said the sprinkler system had been tested in August and was working properly before the explosion. “Right now, we’re looking at what the cause of the incident was and if that may have caused other problems by disabling some of the other systems, like the sprinkler system,” he said.
Corallo said C6-Zero’s tanks are registered with the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Aboveground Storage Tank Plan Review and Registration Program, but Debbie McClung, spokeswoman for the agency, said Thursday records do not show that.
“Iowa Department of Public Safety records indicate C6-Zero is not registered,” she said in an email.
Neither C6-Zero nor other company names previously used by Brand is listed in a national database of firms whose employees are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. The firm also is not included in a list of self-insured companies.
“C6-Zero has a workers’ compensation policy that covers all our employees,” he told The Gazette. ”Currently, all employees are being paid regardless of their medical status.“
It’s possible the firm is covered under another name, but Corallo did not respond to a question about what other company name might be used.
Without workers’ compensation insurance, sick or injured employees must pay for medical bills themselves or sue their employer to recover those costs.
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