Salvage yard fined $10,000 by state environmental regulators

By: - April 28, 2022 4:15 pm

The Department of Natural Resources is increasingly encountering people who stockpile tires rather than pay to have them properly disposed of. (Photo courtesy of Iowa DNR)

The owner of a salvage yard in southeast Iowa has repeatedly failed to properly dispose of pollutants from junk vehicles and appliances in at least the past eight years and has illegally stockpiled thousands of tires and building debris, according to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources administrative order.

Phil Feinberg was fined $10,000 by the DNR — the maximum amount allowed under Iowa law for such administrative actions — for those violations at his S.E. Iowa Metals Recycling business near Lockridge.

Feinberg’s family had jointly operated several salvage yards until 2014, when he filed for bankruptcy and began operating the site on his own, said Ryan Stouder, a senior environmental specialist for the DNR who has investigated complaints against the salvage yard for years and has documented numerous violations.

“He doesn’t necessarily follow the rules well,” Stouder said. “Right now he’s making more (money) by not complying. It’s an economic advantage. Other scrappers in the area have complained that he’s pulling business because he’s not doing what he’s supposed to be doing.”

That includes failing to drain fluids from vehicles before crushing them and stockpiling their tires rather than paying to properly dispose of them, according to the order. By saving money on disposal, Feinberg is able to give more attractive purchase offers to customers, Stouder said.

Feinberg did not respond to a request to comment for this article. Stouder said Feinberg told him that he was relying on customers to drain the fluids from their vehicles before hauling them to the salvage yard.

In 2019, someone complained that Feinberg had amassed about 20,000 tires at the site, and despite repeated DNR warnings to dispose of them, the piles remain, Stouder said. It’s illegal to have more than 500 tires without a permit.

In June 2021, Stouder sampled rainwater that had collected at the site, and tests revealed contaminations by hazardous metals, oil and grease, according to the order.

Feinberg also had received a notice of violation for having a large pile of construction and demolition waste at the salvage yard that he didn’t dispose of for at least two years. Stouder said Feinberg told him he hauled the waste to a landfill but couldn’t provide proof, such as a receipt.

There was also periodic evidence that the salvage yard had burned waste, including wiring to obtain its copper.

The DNR unsuccessfully attempted to reach an agreement with Feinberg to resolve the issues early this year. Instead, the department issued a unilateral order that imposed the $10,000 fine and requires him to remove the excess tires within 90 days and comply with hazardous materials disposal rules going forward.

Feinberg has 60 days to appeal the order.

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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.