Kenneth Leon Morris of Umatilla and Bruce Arbuckle Ford of Hermiston have appealed Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) penalties issued to them for open-burning violations on property Ford leased near Umatilla.

The agency fined Morris $3,000 for openly burning prohibited materials on the property. The DEQ also fined Ford $3,056 for allowing the open burning.

The open burning of prohibited materials that normally emits dense and noxious smoke plumes violates Oregon's environmental laws, DEQ officials said.

On Dec. 14 and Dec. 16, 2007, DEQ staff observed a dense plume of black smoke emanating from an area off State Highway 730. Noxious odors from the smoke plume were detectable from a distance of approximately 21/2 miles. On Dec. 16, 2007, DEQ investigated the site of the fire, an agricultural field at the top of Kurz Road, west of Umatilla.

DEQ officials observed the fire was unattended. No equipment was present to extinguish the fire if necessary. Burning were PVC pipe, railroad ties, plastic battery casings, charred oil filters, aerosol cans, a tire and other prohibited materials not allowed to be burned in Oregon. DEQ estimated the total volume of the material was approximately 20 cubic yards with approximately eight cubic yards of it comprising prohibited materials.

On Dec. 20, 2007, DEQ discussed the incident with Morris and Ford. Morris, a local scrap metals dealer, said Ford invited him to remove scrap metals from the site and gave him permission to burn a thick blanket of weeds that covered the metal. Ford explained that he was a tenant of the property owned by his brother-in-law and that he allowed Morris onto the property to retrieve the scrap metal to clean up the site.

Morris initiated the weed burn on Dec. 14. With Ford's permission, he re-entered the property on Dec. 16 and initiated the burning of 10-15 railroad ties. DEQ officials said Morris and Ford are liable for the incidents - Morris for initiating the burns and Ford for allowing them.

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