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Great Lakes Article:

Feds seize records at Dearborn oil plant
FBI, EPA search for those responsible for Rouge spill

By David Shepardson / The Detroit News
06/29/2002


   DEARBORN -- The Environmental Protection Agency and the FBI seized thousands of records from Comprehensive Environmental Solutions as part of their investigation of an oil spill into the Detroit and Rouge rivers, according to a court document released Tuesday.
   About 15 federal agents spent three days last week at the oil-reclamation and disposal facility. There, they seized detailed financial records, oil logs and oil samples, according to the document.
   A task force of federal environmental and law-enforcement agencies is searching for the culprit behind an April 9 spill that sent more than 250,000 gallons of oil into the rivers. About 70,000 gallons were recovered, while the rest were dispersed into the rivers and Lake Erie.
   The spill, which closed the Rouge River to commercial traffic for three weeks and injured migratory birds and turtles, sent oil 27 miles downstream into the Detroit River. Containment crews cleaned up the spill with 200-foot booms. The spill and investigation into it have cost the Coast Guard, EPA and other federal agencies more than $4 million so far.
   Comprehensive Environmental Solutions Chief Executive Bryan Mallindine couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. But in a statement it issued last week, the Nevada-based company denied any wrongdoing and said it was cooperating fully with the FBI and EPA.
   The company -- which was Rich Coast Inc. until March 18, when it was bought by Comprehensive -- is spending $2 million over the next 18 months to improve the company's "environmental capabilities," the statement said.
   Also seized during the three-day search were:
   * Records detailing who brought in oil, along with discharge, tracking and tank-level oil logs.
   * Oil manifests from April and May, a day planner and business invoices.
   * Building blueprints, financial reports and disposal schedules.
   * Computer records.
   * Employee records, as well as records from fired employees.
   Oil samples from four tanks were taken by the National Enforcement Investigations Center in Denver, an EPA-run research laboratory that helps in criminal investigations, for comparison with oil recovered during the spill.
   Officials also will try to determine if the amount of money the company was paid to recycle oil was equal to the amount of oil that was cleaned and disposed of properly.
   As recently as April 12, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality sent the company a letter saying it had violated procedures for keeping track of oil, said Larry Aubuchon, an official in the agency's Livonia office.
   The company has received several warning letters for alleged violations but has never been fined, Aubuchon said.
   
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