Desler’s fiber being removed

Weyerhaeuser, Lane Forest Products and Sweet Home Sanitation are removing the piles of cardboard fibers stored in piles at two abandoned mill sites in the Sweet Home area, including a property at the north end of 24th Avenue and one off Highway 20 west of Sweet Home.

On Dec. 26, 2008, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality fined Western Trucking, Western Renewable Resources, Western States Land Reliance Trust and Dan Desler $192,000 for operating solid waste disposal sites without a permit at 28389 Hwy. 20 and 2210 Tamarack St. The piles are located at the north end of 24th Avenue. Desler is managing partner in WRR and managing trustee in WSLRT.

“I think from the standpoint of the community, we understand it’s been quite a concern, and we’re part of the community,” said Greg Miller, spokesman for Weyerhaeuser. “We were working with DEQ to find a way to resolve that.”

It’s a concern, Miller said, and cleaning it up is the right thing to do.

He didn’t have many details about the project on Monday, he said. Based on the best information he has, it will take about 120 days to clear away the old corrugated container board fibers.

Weyerhaeuser is working with Lane Forest Products, he said, and Lane Forest Products is working with Sweet Home Sanitation.

The fibers will be taken to Coffin Butte landfill north of Corvallis, Miller said.

“We sold the material to Weyerhaeuser with the understanding it would be removed from the site,” Desler said. “What they do with it is their own business.”

The details of the arrangement, a negotiated settlement, are confidential, Desler said.

Miller did not know the details of any arrangement with Desler.

Weyerhaeuser had hoped to have the site clear by late December, Desler said, but it’s taking some time. Sweet Home Sanitation got involved because of its franchise agreement with the city and county.

Desler has contended that the fiber is inventory, while the DEQ defined it as solid waste. Desler filed suit in Linn County Circuit Court to have a judge decide whether the fibers are inventory or waste.

The case remains open, he said. He plans to continue the case to nullify the DEQ’s action against him and his companies “and put us in a position to nullify our losses, which has been substantial.”

Overall, DEQ actions have led to the loss of 60 jobs, Desler said.

The case has been set aside and moved to a different court, Desler said.

Other newspaper reports said that the companies cited by the DEQ are now defunct, but Desler said they still have assets and much depends on the outcome of the decision about what the piles are.

“If there ever was an issue, the issue will be leaving,” Desler said. “My primary focus is to bring to this community economic vitality, and that has always been my goal.”

Desler also faces charges of felony air pollution for allegedly improperly demolishing buildings on the 2210 Tamarack property.

His belief is that both issues have been mishandled by the DEQ, Desler said, and his economic development goals have been shortchanged by DEQ.

If the situation is fair and balanced, he is confident that he will prevail in court, he said.

“I’m prepared to go the length,” Desler said. “My reputation has been damaged, and there’s been a tremendous amount of untruth. I will fight to the end to prove my innocence.”

The New Era attempted to contact representatives of Sweet Home Sanitation and the DEQ Monday, but they did not respond before press time.