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Lake County Sheriff Responds to IDEM Threats

Oct 1, 2007

NW Indiana Times

Treat environmental crimes like others

Guest Commentary by Rogelio "Roy" Dominguez, Lake County Sheriff

Indiana‘s Constitution, statutes and Lake County ordinances empower the sheriff to enforce all laws. This is why I am astonished by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management threat to impose fines upon Lake County as a result of the sheriff department's decision to ensure the safety of Lake County citizens near the possibly contaminated Feddeler Landfill.

Indiana‘s Constitution, statutes and Lake County ordinances empower the sheriff to enforce all laws. This is why I am astonished by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management threat to impose fines upon Lake County as a result of the sheriff department's decision to ensure the safety of Lake County citizens near the possibly contaminated Feddeler Landfill.

Despite this bewilderment, rather than have a hostile relationship and war of words with IDEM, I prefer to partner with the agency to stamp out environmental crime in Lake County.

There are numerous reasons why IDEM can best serve Lake County by supporting and not resisting local law enforcement efforts to address potentially dangerous and costly environmental hazards.

In establishing an Environmental Crime Task Force, the sheriff's department has sought to end the plague of industrial waste and illegal dumping in Lake County. By enforcing laws that dissuade environmental pollution and hazardous dumping, the sheriff's department is working to usher in a culture of environmental care that promotes economic growth and green living. Within the last two years, the sheriff's department has filed criminal felony and misdemeanor charges and civil actions against several defendants.

Our actions to determine whether hazards exist at Feddeler are consistent with prudent and progressive law enforcement practices. I must reiterate our earlier request for IDEM to perform further credible site testing to determine actual safety levels.

Additionally, I am astounded by IDEM'S implication that our local investigation to determine safety levels resulted in increased danger levels. When one considers that for more than 20 years Feddeler Landfill has gone without adequate monitoring, our decision to inspect and review is reasonable. In fact, subsequent to our local investigation, our state attorney general sued the owners of the landfill.

We seek to work with IDEM and other responsible agencies to guarantee the safety of Lake County citizens. I hope municipal and county law enforcement agencies can depend upon state enforcement powers as we work to address environmental crime. Consequently, I sought intervention from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Moreover, I encourage IDEM and other responsible agencies to join our efforts to address environmental crime and remove environmental hazards in Lake County.

As sheriff, I welcome IDEM to join us in pursuing those who actually cause and commit environmental crime.

Notwithstanding our desire for teamwork, IDEM's recent threat to fine Lake County $25,000 per day because of local law enforcement efforts seems counter productive and wholly misguided. It will be increasingly difficult for local communities to protect the environment if IDEM maintains its apparent posture of opposing environmental crime fighting at the local level. I am optimistic our appeal for intervention to Daniels will result in less incendiary rhetoric and more reasonable regulatory practices by IDEM.

     
     

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