DNREC issues $1.7 million fine against Georgetown scrap yard

Donovan Salvage Works owner says state is just trying to shut down decades-old business
November 15, 2022

Story Location:
Donovan Salvage Works
20262 Donovans Road
Georgetown, DE 19947
United States

Citing ongoing violations and noncompliance related to tires, hazardous waste, water discharge and air quality, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has issued a fine against Georgetown-based Donovan Salvage Works worth $1.7 million.

The penalty assessed is proportional to the violations and has been calculated to deter respondents and those similarly situated from engaging in future violations, said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin in a 53-page order Nov. 2.

“Respondents were previously provided notice of many of these regulatory violations and afforded the opportunity to comply,” said Garvin. “In addition, had respondents employed reasonable oversight measures as required by the regulations, many of the violations could have been remedied sooner or avoided altogether.”

In May, DNREC issued a notice that identified 45 violations. That notice required the salvage yard to immediately comply, but in July it was granted an additional 90 days to do so. According to the order, as of the date it was issued, 18 of the violations have been corrected.

Garvin also said Donovan Salvage Works has incurred meaningful economic benefit from the violations, including the avoidance of permit fees, analytical costs and disposal fees. These factors were considered, he said.

Donovan Salvage, a recycling and used auto parts business, has been located off Donovans Road since the 1960s. In an onsite interview Nov. 11, current owner Mike Herbert said he purchased the property in the early 2000s, and most of the environmental issues are from the decades of operation prior to his involvement. There have been a number of improvements made over the years, he said, pointing to removal of thousands of tires, installation of graded concrete, installation of oil and water separators, and other measures.

“It’s hard to be in a business like this. None of the stuff is intentional,” said Herbert. “Whatever we do, it’s never good enough. They want this place to look like a cafeteria. I think they’re just trying to shut us down.”

Herbert said he didn’t do an environmental inspection when he purchased the 70 acres because the deal was to buy it as is. It probably should have been done, he said.

According to the order, from the date it was issued, Herbert has three options – pay the fine within 30 days, appeal the order to the Environmental Appeals Board within 20 days or request a public hearing within 30 days. The public hearing is free. There’s a $50 filing fee to submit an appeal to the appeals board.

As of Nov. 11, Herbert said he had not appealed the decision nor requested a public hearing, but he intended to do one of them.

This is not the first time Donovan has been cited by DNREC. Violations were also discovered in 2011, 2014 and 2016. 

The order says in addition to the penalty, the salvage yard will also be assessed the costs incurred by DNREC, and it has 14 days to submit for review any corrective measures taken on the remaining violations.

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