TOWANDA - Growmark FS Inc. has been charged with criminal violations of the Solid Waste Management Act after it disposed of herbicide and pesticide waste on the grounds of its facility at 100 Packer Ave. in Towanda, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office.

Specifically, Growmark has been charged with two third-degree misdemeanors stemming from the disposal of the waste at the site without a permit, which occurred from 2006 to August 2010.

Seasonal workers for Growmark said that after applying herbicides and pesticides to farmers' fields, they would rinse the spray tanks three times with water and then spray the waste water on the ground at the rear of Growmark's Towanda facility, near the railroad tracks, according to a criminal complaint that the Attorney General's Office filed against Growmark in Towanda District Court. A Growmark seasonal worker told a special agent from the Attorney General's Office that the spray rigs had to be triple-rinsed before they could be used to spray another chemical, the complaint states.

One seasonal worker told the special agent that spraying the waste water on the ground near the railroad tracks was "standard operating procedure," according to the complaint.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said it took soil samples - geoprobe borings up to a depth of 64 inches - in the area where the waste water was sprayed, and found glyphosate and metolachlor in the samples. Glyphosate and metolachlor are active ingredients in some of the products that Growmark applies to farmers' fields, according to the complaint.

The Review emailed the DEP, asking what potential environmental impact would exist from the dumping of the waste.

In response, the DEP said it could not comment, since the case is now before the courts.

Steve Buckalew, who is the chief executive officer for Growmark FS, LCC, said, "I am not able to comment on the specifics of the charges concerning our Towanda...facility due to the ongoing legal proceedings, but we are fully cooperating with the Attorney General's Office.

"Growmark FS's standard operating procedure is to apply herbicide or pesticide products to fields according to the product labels and then to rinse the sprayer tanks in the field where the product was applied, not at the facility site. That practice is routinely taught and reinforced to all Growmark FS applicators," Buckalew said.

Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said each of the two third-degree misdemeanor charges are punishable by a fine ranging from $1,000 to $25,000.

Growmark has been sent a summons stating that a preliminary hearing on the misdemeanor charges will take place before Towanda Magisterial District Judge Timothy Clark on Sept. 12.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com