State reports truck-washing business caught red-handed dumping waste

By: - April 22, 2022 4:27 pm

A Mason City truck wash was accused of deliberately dumping various waste liquids on the ground. (Photo by Jacob Donaghy/Iowa DNR)

A Mason City truck-washing business was caught by a state environmental officer illegally dumping diluted corn oil on the ground when the officer went to the site to follow up on the business’ illegal dumping of a green agricultural chemical the day before, according to a recent Iowa Department of Natural Resources administrative order that imposed a $10,000 fine on the company.

Those back-to-back violations followed the DNR’s first investigation of Brookstone Specialty Services in December 2020, not long after it opened, when someone reported a petroleum smell in a nearby creek and dead fish.

Brookstone cleans large trucks and their trailers after they haul various items. A DNR investigation revealed the creek contamination was, in part, brown sludge left over from distilling grain that had been cleaned from one of the trucks. The business mistakenly allowed the material to drain into a basin that empties into Cheslea Creek, thinking that it went into the city’s sewer system instead, the administrative order said.

A DNR environmental specialist evaluated the creek and found that a significant amount of livestock bedding had also been washed into the creek. Brookstone was required to hire someone to scoop the bedding from the creek, and that company hauled four truckloads of material from it, totaling about 12 cubic yards.

Then, in June 2021, someone reported the illegal dumping of a neon green liquid at the site.

“We had a complaint that they were dumping this green stuff out back,” said Jacob Donaghy, an environmental specialist for the DNR who investigated the complaint. “We went there and sure enough, there was green stuff out back. It was just being dumped on the soil.”

Workers had been transferring the chemical — which is used to keep nitrogen from leeching from farm fields — into a larger container, Donaghy said. Someone cleaned out the equipment used to transfer the chemical with about 1,000 gallons of water and then dumped that water. The company said it was a mistake by a new employee.

But when Donaghy followed up the next day, he arrived to find a trailer with a tank that was discharging a yellow liquid into the same area. This time, it was corn oil wash water.

“We were very surprised because we had just been there the previous day,” Donaghy said.

Brookstone agreed to pay a $10,000 fine to settle the matter, the maximum allowed under the department’s administrative agreements. The company saved up to an estimated $11,000 by dumping the liquids rather than paying to dispose of them properly, the administrative order said.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.