DNR fines Cedar Falls man for illegal dumping and burning

By: - January 3, 2023 2:00 pm

It’s illegal to burn construction and demolition debris in Iowa. (Photo courtesy of Iowa DNR)

A rural Cedar Falls man who operates a construction company has repeatedly stockpiled and burned debris from various projects in the past decade, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR recently fined Michael Arends $10,000 and “conservatively estimated” that he had improperly disposed of 100 tons of construction and demolition waste.

“Mr. Arends has a history of illegal open burning and dumping, and has specifically been informed in writing by (the DNR) of the prohibitions against illegal open burning and dumping,” a DNR administrative order said.

Arends told Iowa Capital Dispatch he was unaware of the order and couldn’t comment on the specifics of it. He said his company has periodically hauled waste to his acreage when the ground was too wet to take it to a landfill.

The order chronicled allegations dating back to 2013, when someone reported to the DNR that Arends was hauling construction and demolition waste from Cedar Falls to his acreage about three miles west of the city and burning it. A DNR officer observed a smoldering pile of debris on the property and issued Arends a notice of violation that did not result in a fine.

Such waste must typically be taken to a landfill for disposal.

In 2020, someone made a similar complaint about Arends, and a DNR officer found smoldering landscape waste and another, unburned pile of landscape waste that also had a pallet, tire and stormwater filter sock in it, the DNR order said. The officer issued a letter of noncompliance to Arends.

In 2021, the DNR investigated another complaint and found a smoldering pile of waste on Arends’ acreage that had tires, insulation, a window air conditioner, sinks, metal siding and other items.

Around that same time, someone reported to the DNR that Arends had dumped waste on the banks of a creek near New Hartford. The DNR found that it was part of an unpermitted riprap project and told the property owner to remove the waste. As of June 2022, not all of the waste had been removed, the DNR order said.

Also that year, a DNR officer investigated another complaint of illegal burning at Arends’ acreage and found a burned pile of tree waste that also contained an unspecified appliance.

The DNR order in December fined him $10,000 and gave him 30 days to dispose of any remaining waste on his property and on the creek banks.

Arends can appeal for a lesser fine. He was assessed the maximum allowed by Iowa law.

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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.