— The owner of a local waste disposal company has been arrested and charged with various crimes, including illegal burning and burying of waste in Wayne County.
Joseph Bunnell, 50, was arrested last Friday by agents from the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office.
Bunnell is the owner of Bunnell Waste Removal located at 257 Tryon Street in Honesdale.
According to the cirminal complaint, Bunnell is charged with obtaining thousands of dollars from customers by misrepresenting that their waste was properly disposed of at a landfill.
Attorney General Linda Kelly said Bunnell allegedly provided customers with bogus landfill weigh tickets which falsely indicated their buried and burned waste had been disposed of at a landfill.
According to the complaint, Bunnell is accused of burying and burning the waste at his property in Honesdale as well as at a property in Buckingham Township near Lake Como in northern Wayne County, referred to as the Hunt property.
The Wayne Independent obtained a copy of the affidavit of probable cause which outlines in detail the accusations against Bunnell.
It was compiled by Donald A. Hentz Jr., a special agent with the Office of Attorney General, Bureau of Criminal Investigations, Environmental Crimes Section.
Hentz said in October 2011, he interviewed someone who had worked at Bunnell for about six years. The employee said that he was directed by Bunnell or BWR supervisory employee Jody Rickert to transport waste to one of the two sites in Wayne County.
He said waste was transported to the Tryon Street site in Honesdale where it was sorted by Bunnell employees and then burned or taken to the Keystone landfill in Dunmore.
The complaint says that waste was "driven up the hill at Tryon Street" by employees "early in the morning and burned primarily on foggy/rainy days."
The agent also interviewed a 20-year employee of Bunnell who said that approximately four to six loads of trash at a time were dumped at Tryon Street and sorted by laborers. He said all wood, cardboard and tires were separated out to be burned at the site.
The affidavit also said that local fire departments were frequently called to the site to put out trash fires.
In December of 2011, the agent interviewed Don Hiller of the Seelyville Fire Department. Hiller told Hentz he was aware Bunnell had been burning waste on Tryon Street "for approximately five to seven years."
Hiller told investigators he remembered a specific incident on March 22, 2010, where he observed a pile of burning debris approximately 60 feet by 60 feet with flames 30 to 40 feet in the air. He described the debris as "construction and demolition waste consisting of beams, lumber, shingles, etc."
Page 2 of 3 - The agent also interviewed Department of Environmental Protection Solid Waste Specialist Mike Lucsky, who first began inspecting the Bunnell facility in 2004. Lucsky said he made numerous visits to the site and saw evidence of the processing, burning and burial of waste without DEP permits. He said several notices of violations and compliance have been issued to Bunnell for solid waste violations on Tryon Street.
A compliance order issued in March 2011 required removal of burned and buried waste. Lucsky monitored the cleanup of the Tryon Street property, including the extraction of 240 tons of burned and buried waste that was ultimately disposed of at the Keystone Sanitary Landfill.
In November 2011, the agent interviewed another employee of Bunnell, who said he was ordered to take roll-offs of waste to Tryon Street to be sorted and/or burned and he was additionally told to deliver construction and demolition waste to the Hunt property in northern Wayne County.
In February 2012, agents executed a search warrant at the Hunt property. During the search, it was learned that Bunnell had paid $200 per load to dump waste at the Hunt property in northern Wayne County.
During the search, areas identified by witnesses were excavated and searched. Extensive burned areas were observed and buried waste was excavated, including construction and demolition waste, household items and ash. DEP officials said they had not issued any permit for allowing disposal of solid waste at the Hunt property.
During another interview in January 2012, officials learned that Bunnell Waste never had any scales to weigh waste. The weights of the roll-offs were either estimated or determined at the Wayne County Recycling Center, the investigators were told.
Investigators also learned that Bunnell Waste staff members copied unrelated Keystone Sanitary Landfill weigh tickets that would "then be altered by changing information, including customer name, account number, vehicle code, date and time of transaction."
It states the altered weigh tickets were provided to Bunnell customers with billing/invoice documents.
"Customers were billed on the false weight on the altered Keystone Sanitary Landfill weigh tickets," stated the affidavit.
In August 2012, investigators interviewed Susan L. Mang, office manager of Bunnell Waste. Mang told investigators that Bunnell is involved in all aspects of the company and when he is not present, it is operated by Jody Rickert.
She added that during the course of the day, company drivers would call in and notify office staff of where they were and the type of load they had picked up. Then, either Joe Bunnell or Rickert directed where the loads would be taken. Loads were either returned directly to Tryon Street, taken to the Wayne County Recycling Center to be weighed and then returned to Tryon Street or delivered to the Keystone landfill for disposal. The affidavit says that loads returned to Tryon Street were either processed, burned and/or buried.
Page 3 of 3 - In July 2012, agents interviewed Dan O'Brien, business manager for Keystone Sanitary Landfill. He said Keystone provides customers with weigh tickets documenting transactions at the landfill. He also confirmed that Bunnell Waste is a customer of the landfill.
He said those tickets document the date and time of the transaction, net, gross and tare weight of the vehicle transporting the waste and location within the landfill grid system where the waste is disposed.
O'Brien said he "doubted it was possible for trucks to have the same gross, net and tare weights and stated it was virtually impossible for waste to be disposed of at the landfill in the same grid on different days."
Investigators reviewed 366 Bunnell weigh tickets, invoices and associated billing documents for BWR customers from Jan. 17, 2009, through May 11, 2012. The agent noted "numerous instances where weigh tickets contained identical information regarding gross, net and tare weights, grid location and driver's signatures."
It was also determined the customers were billed in excess of $2,000 by Bunnell for proper waste disposal.
The agent cited various Pennsylvania codes which he alleges were violated by Bunnell.
Bunnell was charged with two counts of illegal transportation, one count of illegal dumping, one count of illegal burning, one count of illegal storage, one count of theft by deception and one county of corrupt organizations. The last two counts are felonies and the other are misdemeanors.
He was arraigned last Friday by Magisterial District Judge Ted Mikulak and was released on $2,500 unsecured bail.