On Nov. 16, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency began to clean and confiscate hazardous materials from “Iron Mountain,” the 10-acre property in Renton that Charles Pillon has lived on and used as an unpermitted landfill and wrecking yard since 1993. The site has been investigated over 20 times.
This was the first meaningful cleanup there, according to court documents. They removed more than 1,600 chemical containers, sending 244 surface samples for analysis, thanks to an administrative warrant to access and clean the premises.
Now the EPA has filed a lawsuit against him in order to extend that warrant. This comes after they failed to receive consent from Pillon, according to the suit. The owner of Iron Mountain is also dealing with millions of dollars in penalties and jail time from court proceedings related to the property.
Pillon was court-ordered to allow EPA access to his site, but he denied it, according to the state attorney general’s office.
The federal lawsuit states that Pillon, in a series of emails to officials, objected to EPA involvement at the site. He also claimed he had the right to an owner clean-up, according to the suit, and did not sign consent forms given to him.
The samples from the initial cleanup found “flammable, corrosive, oxidizing and toxic substances.” Tanker trucks of volatile liquids and containers with asbestos were also found.
In an interview with Seattle Weekly from June 2018, Pillon argued that his property wasn’t polluted. He said it had value as a drop off for unwanted machinery and waste, and a space for people without homes to sleep.
In the cleanup, EPA stated they found evidence of people sleeping on the premises in RVs and buses. One RV resident gave officials a jar of mercury he had collected by breaking mercury out of thermometers.
Underground samples were taken from the site, but EPA hasn’t received results from the collected soil. According to the filing, there wasn’t obvious evidence of contamination below the surface.
The documents continued, stating leaking containers were found. King County Superior Court previously found that the dump yard placed May Creek and Lake Washington in imminent danger of harm.
Pillon is also still in legal proceedings with Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, after a judge found him guilty of multiple felony charges in June 2018, for violations of the hazardous waste management act and wrecking vehicles without a license. He was also convicted of a gross misdemeanor for unlawful dumping of solid waste.
A November 2018 restitution hearing for that case found Pillon responsible for paying $3.88 million in public funds, in addition to $15,000 in penalties, and required to spend 30 days in jail.
Brionna Aho, communication director for the attorney general’s office, said Pillon’s jail time was suspended pending Pillon’s appeal of that ruling. But his other violations of court orders resulted in him serving that jail time anyways, in December 2018. He was released Dec. 22, according to King County jail records.
The cleanup by EPA has been underway for several weeks, Aho said.
In the lawsuit, EPA estimated they need 90 days to complete work on Pillon’s site. The cleanup includes more soil sampling, removal of soil and construction of a groundwater monitoring well.
“EPA has taken significant steps to address any hazardous materials at the site, and they will continue efforts to ensure hazardous materials on the site or in the soil do not pose a threat to neighbors or citizens of King County,” Aho said.