PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict has forwarded a criminal referral to the county prosecuting attorney’s office targeting Midway Metals and owner Katrina Haymaker for unlawful dumping of solid waste without a permit.
Benedict expects the office to issue a summons for Haymaker to appear in district court on a misdemeanor charge. The prosecuting attorney’s office did not comment
According to Benedict, the action is the culmination of years in which Midway Metals — which sits on 2.1 acres at 258010 U.S. Highway 101 eight miles east of Port Angeles — and proprietor Haymaker have grappled with the county and state of Washington over illegal dumping, soil contamination and consistent violations of county and state solid waste ordinances.
It is a gross misdemeanor in Washington state for a person to litter in an amount of one cubic yard or more.
Benedict says he has strived to accommodate Haymaker, desiring to find a congenial solution to the problem while keeping people out of jail.
“I’m trying to help them out,” he said in a recent interview. “I would love for them to have a legitimate, legal business out there. There is a need for this, but on the other hand they are not following the laws and the rules.”
He added that Midway has a long history of operating an unlicensed, unregulated and unpermitted solid waste recycling facility and has never had a solid waste permit or exemption in accordance with state law.
“Haymaker and Hesseltine (Jason B. Hesseltine, Haymaker’s partner) have dumped or allowed the dumping and abandonment of at least 500 cubic yards of solid waste over the past 10 years,” Benedict wrote in a recent narrative.
“This is in addition to several hundreds of cubic yards of scrap metal they have collected (going back at least 10 years) and recycled in the last year.”
Benedict estimated that Haymaker was sitting on approximately $40,000 of accumulated fines she has yet to pay.
“I was going to recommend that those fines be waived once she got into compliance,” Benedict wrote. “But she hasn’t finished the cleanup.”
In April 2021, workers began hauling away tons of scrap and debris from the site but stopped at some point when disagreements with the county came to a head.
Haymaker could not be reached for comment. In an early February face-to-face meeting with Benedict, she accused the sheriff of “moving the goalposts” and not abiding by their agreement to clean up the site.
Benedict responded in a letter to Haymaker the next day: “Please tell me why you think I haven’t been true to my word?” he wrote, recalling that he had assisted in removing about 300 tires and had certified vehicle hulks on the property for scrap.
“I have been remarkably patient in not taking any action that would be adverse to you or your property and have responded promptly to your requests.”
Adversity, however, has been no stranger to Midway Metals over the years.
A 2006 Clallam County Environmental Health soil analysis indicated higher-than-allowed amounts of cadmium, lead and heavy oil at the facility, though a state Department of Ecology inspection in 2020 found no contamination in either ground water or surface water, according to Rebecca Lawson, Southwest Region section manager for the department’s Toxics Cleanup Program.
The property, however, remains on Ecology’s Confirmed and Suspected Contaminated Sites List, though Ecology currently hasn’t the resources to review the site or perform potentially needed cleanup, according to Lawson.
There’s another solution, though, she stressed.
“The property owner could hire a consultant and enter Ecology’s Voluntary Cleanup Program to clean up the site independently,” she said. “This would be a great next step for the property owner to take.”
After years of back and forth between Haymaker and the county, the fraught situation boiled over in January 2021 when the county sent Haymaker a seven-page cease-and-desist letter.
The letter read in part: “The MWM site contains tons of solid waste that’s been unlawfully dumped onto the property, and solid waste continues to be unlawfully dumped onto the site. Despite all of the county’s efforts to convince you to abate the violations, you have not done so.”
Murphy and Benedict aren’t the only county and state officials involved in the controversy.
Derek Rockett, an Ecology facilities specialist, met with Benedict on March 18 to review the Midway site. In a follow-up letter to Benedict he estimated the site contained more than 500 cubic yards of solid waste and could be contaminated.
“The extent and amount of contamination on this property would require an extensive study,” he wrote.
And in an April 2022 letter following her review of the Sheriff’s Department Midway findings, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, Dr. Allison Berry, noted that hazards persist at the site.
“Significant solid waste violations and environmental hazards remain, and are likely to worsen in the coming weeks if no further enforcement actions are taken,” she wrote.
“We have exhausted our civil remedies in this case and unfortunately a criminal complaint is the only remaining option,” Berry said.
Benedict, however, managed to find one ray of sunshine in the whole ordeal.
“To be honest with you, at least they’re not open for business right now,” he said. “I’m satisfied that they are still closed down.”