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Authorities: Biodiesel maker discarded extra oil near public water source
By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- Authorities say they caught a man greasy-handed while he was illegally dumping used cooking oil in town Friday near a source of public drinking water.
Dozens of gallons of the substance lay spread across part of a gravel road off Squirrel Lane on private property owned by Westwind Development LLC.
Stephens City Assistant Fire Marshal Steven Ritter and town Police Chief Charles Bockey Jr. spent time collecting the oil into metal cans that they placed into plastic evidence bags.
Bockey said he received a call at 1:40 p.m. from a man who reported seeing the suspect
"Gentleman told me, says 'You got a truck back here dumping oil again,'" Bockey recalled. "He said, 'You better be quick before he leaves,' and I was here within a couple of minutes."
The suspect had a pickup with a flatbed trailer attached backed up to the alleged dumping area, which remains obscured by trees far from the main road.
The trailer contained a large, plastic vat of liquid and smaller receptacles.
Approximately 100 gallons of oil, either vegetable or soybean, had been dumped on the site from the current as well as a previous incident, Ritter said.
The suspect, who Bockey did not name pending interviews and further investigation, collected the cooking oil from restaurants. The man then would refine the oil and turn it into biodiesel he would sell, Bockey said.
However, the man decided to dump the oil he couldn't sell, Bockey said.
"He has admitted to being back here before," Bockey said.
Police responded to a similar incident reported four weeks ago in the same spot, where authorities found several dozen gallons of oil and some empty plastic containers, Bockey said.
Further investigation is needed to determine if both incidents are linked, Bockey said.
No charges have been filed in the investigation. Bockey said he plans to confer with the Frederick County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office to determine what charge or charges to file in the case.
Authorities notified the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and Westwind manager Beverley Shoemaker has contracted a company to clean up the oil, Ritter said. The fire marshal noted that the site lies within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and near the quarry the town uses for its water source.
"All that's gonna flow right down and then into the quarry," Shoemaker warned.
Shoemaker expressed gratitude to Bockey and for the caller who alerted the chief to the dumping.